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Chargers make coveted RB Turner too expensive for suitors

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Mar 20, 2007.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.sportsline.com/nfl/story/10072169/1" target="_blank">CBS Sportsline</a>

    By Clark Judge

    <img src="http://images.sportsline.com/u/photos/football/nfl/img10072215.jpg" title="Many think L.T. backup Michael Turner could be a No. 1 back." alt="Many think L.T. backup Michael Turner could be a No. 1 back." align="left" height="220" width="200" />Attention, NFL shoppers: I just found a running back you might not be able to afford.

    Say hello to San Diego's Michael Turner. He's a restricted free agent. He's tendered with a one-year offer. And he's available ... for the right price.

    Which is where we, er, you, have a problem.

    You see, to acquire Turner it will cost first- and third-round draft picks, compensation that all but killed interest in one of the league's promising talents. I hedge here because there's still time, with April 20 the deadline for signing restricted free agents to offer sheets.

    The probability, of course, is that no one will jump for Turner. He's strictly a backup, playing only when LaDainian Tomlinson sits down, and has 157 carries in three NFL seasons, with 80 attempts in 2006 a career high. He also returns kicks.

    So why, clubs ask themselves, spend two draft picks on him?

    Well, the guy is good. Real good. When I asked one NFL general manager about Turner, he went on and on about his speed, quickness, power and vision. What he didn't mention is that Turner -- nicknamed "The Burner" -- has a career average of 6.0 yards per carry, improves his numbers each season and ended the Colts' unbeaten run in 2005 with a game-clinching 83-yard touchdown.

    "He has all the intangibles you look for in a running back," the GM said.

    What he doesn't have, of course, is much of a chance. Not with L.T. ahead of him. Turner plays only when Tomlinson needs a breather or when the Chargers are so far ahead they can sit the league's MVP.

    But that's one reason Turner is intriguing. He hasn't absorbed the hits of, say, Jamal Lewis. He has far more upside than Ahman Green. And, frankly, he's a better, more powerful runner than Dominic Rhodes. Yet all of those backs signed free-agent contracts worth megabucks, while Turner sat home waiting for offseason workouts to begin.

    That doesn't mean he won't cash in. In gaining the highest tender, Turner picks up $2.35 million for one year's service as Tomlinson's caddy. Then, when he becomes a free agent a year from now, he is auctioned to the highest bidder -- and, trust me, there will be no shortage of suitors ready to empty their vaults.

    So if you're an NFL shopper, why not beat the rush? Why not take a chance on the guy now, figuring you can't do better in the draft than you can with Turner?

    Well, some clubs have. They contacted the Chargers to see if they're willing to deal Turner at a reduced cost, but they might as well have been looking for snow in Mission Bay. It's just not going to happen. Sure, Turner is available ... for a one and a three. Period. End of discussion.

    Still, teams call.

    "Let's just say there has been a lot of activity," Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said of the number of inquiries.

    Smith isn't interested in negotiating. He has something of value, and he intends to hold it as long as he can. That means one more season. He knows Turner probably will exit as a free agent after 2007, but, as he said, "that's what happens when you have good football teams. Guys go to the market."

    But 2008 is not Smith's concern. This season is, and he intends to protect his club in critical areas. He did it a year ago, with Shaun Phillips behind Steve Foley at linebacker. I think we all know what happened there. And Smith did it in 2005, too, keeping Drew Brees and Philip Rivers when the GM's critics predicted he would jettison one.

    Smith wants Michael Turner around as an insurance policy against an injury to Tomlinson. In six seasons L.T. missed exactly one game, so the odds of something happening there aren't what you'd call high. Yet, Smith isn't about to risk losing Turner -- unless, of course, someone is willing to meet the Chargers' demand.

    "I believe in depth," Smith said.

    That's why he stuck the highest possible tender on Michael Turner. It would have been less expensive for the Chargers if Smith reduced the cost to a first-rounder alone, but then he would have invited interest.

    Look what happened with Laveranues Coles in 2003. When the Jets made the mistake of tendering the wide receiver with a first-round draft choice as compensation, Washington jumped in with an offer sheet the Jets did not match.

    Afterward, Redskins officials acknowledged they wouldn't have acted had the Jets upped the price to a first- and third-rounder.

    That explains what's going on with Michael Turner -- or, more accurately, what is not going on. When the New York Jets needed a starter at running back, they didn't think about signing Turner to an offer sheet; they traded for Thomas Jones. It cost them a second-round draft pick for a former first-rounder who rushed for a combined 2,545 yards the past two seasons.

    Turner is far more expensive, which is why nobody has budged. And why, in all likelihood, nobody will.

    Michael Turner is the best back out there, but he's a rarity in The Year of Spending Freely: He's a back no one can afford.

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