The inevitable occurred this afternoon in sunny southern California. Choosing to venture off into the future now instead of prolonging it for a final season, the Chargers released superstar running back LaDainian Tomlinson, guaranteeing a sight no one expected to see next fall: LT donning a something other than San Diego’s classic powder blue and white uniforms.

According to ESPN’s John Clayton, the team and Tomlinson expected such a move since the season’s end, given the future Hall of Famer’s impending salary bonuses this off-season and his significant drop in production last year.

While Chargers fans will likely bemoan the loss of a player that many feel is among the greatest in the team’s history, it was a move that had to be made on a number of levels for San Diego, as it had become abundantly clear that without a reasonable threat coming from the backfield, the Chargers’ offense would face entirely too much pressure from opposing defenses. Tomlinson’s departure temporarily opens a huge hole in San Diego’s lineup, but it’s expected that they will use a high round selection in the draft to address the running back spot.

Several players likely to be available when the Chargers select in round one and two are Jonathan Dwyer (Georgia Tech), Jahvid Best (Cal), Ryan Matthews (Fresno State), and Anthony Dixon (Mississippi State). San Diego could also elect to trade away a proven performer like cornerback Antonio Cromartie for either a draft pick or an established player such as Tennessee’s LenDale White, who has made it clear he wants to be a featured back somewhere else this fall.

As for Tomlinson, his options are not very clear at the moment, although there’s no doubt that his resume will be more than enough to guarantee himself a starting role someplace next fall. Teams likely to be interested include Minnesota, Seattle, New England, and Washington.

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