Is today L.T.'s last game at the Q?

Sunday afternoon could be the final time that running back LaDainian Tomlinson takes the field at Qualcomm Stadium as a member of the San Diego Chargers.

NFP analyst Michael Lombardi wrote this morning in his “Sunday at the Post” column that “L.T. is due to make almost $6 million next season, and unless he’s willing to take a pay cut, cap or no cap, it would be tough for the team to justify his salary.”

The Chargers host the New York Jets today at 4:40pm eastern. A loss would end San Diego’s impressive season while a win would put them in Indianapolis next weekend to play the No. 1 seeded Colts for the AFC Championship.

As Lombardi pointed out, the key to Tomlinson’s future could hinge on his willingness to take less money in order to return to the organization that drafted him in 2001. At $6 million, the price tag is steep for a running back that will be 31 years-old in June and is wrapping up a season in which he posted the worst stat line of his nine-year career.

Despite scoring 12 touchdowns in 14 games this season, Tomlinson rushed for a career-worst 730 yards (29th in NFL) and averaged 3.3 yards per carry. In addition, L.T. caught only 20 passes (career-low) for 154 yards (career low) in 2009.

As a result, the Chargers ranked 31st in the league during the regular season in rushing yards per game (88.9).

So if the Bolts and the future Hall of Fame running back part ways at the end of the season, what would be next for San Diego? Running back Darren Sproles is averaging a healthy 4.5 yards per carry and has proven to be an effective dual-threat back during his five years in Southern California. However, at 5’6”, 185 lbs, it is unlikely that he could step into the lineup as an every-down runner.

Don’t be surprised if the Chargers turn to the NFL draft this April to address the situation. Here are NFP Director of College Scouting Wes Bunting’s top four running backs in this year’s draft:

1. Jonathan Dwyer Georgia Tech (6’1”, 235 lbs): Rushed for 1,395 yards (5.9 YPC) and 14 touchdowns in 14 games for the Yellow Jackets this season. Dwyer is scheduled to hold a press conference on Monday to announce his future.

2. C.J. Spiller Clemson (5’11”, 195 lbs): Scored 16 total touchdowns in 14 games in 2009. Rushed for 1,212 yards and caught 36 passes for 503 yards.

3. Anthony Dixon Mississippi State (6’1”, 235 lbs): Rushed for 100+ yards in eight of 11 games this season for the Bulldogs. Dixon amassed 1,391 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per carry during his senior year.

4. Jahvid Best California (5’10”, 195 lbs): Best missed the final four games of the season due to a concussion, but posted some impressive numbers when healthy. The junior rushed for 867 yards while catching 22 passes for 213 yards in just nine games. He also scored 16 total touchdowns.

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