Move over, Lawrence Taylor. There's another "L.T." on his way to town.
LaDainian Tomlinson chose the Jets over the Vikings yesterday, agreeing to a two-year contract a little more than 24 hours after he left the New York area to go home and mull his decision. Tomlinson's deal is believed to be in the neighborhood of the two-year, $5-million contract Thomas Jones signed with the Chiefs last week after the Jets released him.
The future Hall of Fame running back will be reunited with Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the Chargers' quarterbacks coach from 2002-05. He'll also reconnect with former San Diego teammate Antonio Cromartie, who came to the Jets March 5 for a 2011 third-round draft pick.
"He wanted to go a team that he thought had a chance to compete for the championship," Tomlinson's agent, Tom Condon, told The Associated Press last night. "He wanted to go somewhere where he had a chance to have a significant role, and so with the Jets he also was going to be very familiar with the offensive system.''
Tomlinson, who turns 31 in June, flew home to San Diego Saturday morning to think things over a day after the Jets threw their best recruiting pitch at him. Tomlinson had dinner with general manager Mike Tannenbaum, coach Rex Ryan and other team personnel at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Friday night.
Before being wined and dined by the Jets, Tomlinson spent two days in Minnesota, and the Vikings appeared poised to land him. But he felt the Jets were a better fit and decided to sign on to be Shonn Greene's backup.
The Jets are banking that the aging back released by the Chargers in February isn't done. Tomlinson, third on the NFL all-time list in touchdowns and eighth in rushing yardage, is coming off his worst statistical season, rushing for a modest 730 yards and averaging 3.3 yards per carry.
With Greene as the featured back, however, Tomlinson should be able to ease into his new role and serve as a mentor. Greene tried to emulate everything Jones did and soaked up the knowledge the veteran provided. Now that Tomlinson is on board, Greene still has a veteran's brain to pick, which should help his development.
Tomlinson also gives the Jets an insurance policy. Restricted free agent Leon Washington, still rehabbing a broken right fibula, is expected to be ready for the start of training camp. Washington could draw interest from some teams because the Jets offered him only a second-round tender, though the gruesome nature of his injury might scare potential buyers.
Tomlinson is the latest acquisition in what many figured would be a quiet free-agency period for the Jets, given their restrictions as a final four team heading into an uncapped season. Tannenbaum knew he would have to be creative to improve the team, and he has done just that. He traded for Cromartie and sent disgruntled safety Kerry Rhodes to the Cardinals for a fourth-round pick next month and a 2011 seventh-rounder.