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Sproles Franchised; Smith Says Tomlinson’s Status Not in Question

Last season the Chargers lost Michael Turner to free agency. They moved Wednesday to make sure that same thing would not happen in the 2009 offseason to running back Darren Sproles, as today the team placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Sproles assuring that he would be back next season.

Sproles, who came on at the end of the season, was set to be a free agent on Friday the 27th. Now, the Chargers tendered him a one-year contract offer of approximately $6.6 million, the average of the top five salaried running backs from 2008. He made $1.1 million in base pay last year.

The team is also set to start talking to Sproles’ agent, Gary Wichard, about a long-term deal. As far as being the franchise player, if a team wants Sproles, they would have to give up two first-round draft picks to get him, which is quite a price.

As far as LaDainian Tomlinson and his future with the Chargers go, GM A.J. Smith sais that the move to franchise Sproles does not mean that Tomlinson won’t be back.

“This has nothing to do with L.T.,” Smith said. “Our intention is to pursue L.T. We assume that at the combine it will pick up speed and there will be some substance to it when we return.”

Smith said that Sproles not having a long-term deal forced the Chargers to make a decision, since Thursday is the deadline for designating franchise and transition players.

“We met and discussed the possibilities, which were many,” Smith said. “We’d like for him to be here long term. The deadline has come, and we either let him go to the market or we franchise him. We felt a little uncomfortable with, ‘Let’s just be one of 32 and submit years and money and hope for the best,’ or we franchise him, and he’ll be here, and he’ll be here at a set price.”

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