Posted: March 15, 2010, 12:44 PM ; Updated: March 16, 2010, 4:04 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- LaDainian Tomlinson is bolting for the Big Apple.
Tomlinson's agent, Tom Condon, said Sunday that the New York Jets signed the former Chargers running back to a two-year contract. The Jets confirmed that they have agreed to a deal, adding the aging star to the NFL's top-ranked rushing offense last season.
"He wanted to go to a team that he thought had a chance to compete for the championship," Condon told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "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."
The Jets reached the AFC championship game last season, eliminating Tomlinson and the Chargers along the way.
The 2006 NFL MVP, cut last month by San Diego, chose New York over Minnesota after visiting the Vikings on Thursday. Tomlinson spent Friday with the Jets, capping it with dinner with coach Rex Ryan, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and other team officials.
The Jets went after Tomlinson hard even though he turns 31 in June, is coming off his least productive season and there are questions whether he has much left. New York apparently still saw plenty to like from Tomlinson, who ranks eighth on the NFL's career rushing list with 12,490 yards, and gave him a deal worth about $5.2 million.
Once one of the NFL's most dynamic players, Tomlinson is expected to back up second-year running back Shonn Greene, who emerged in his rookie season and made Thomas Jones expendable. Jones signed with Kansas City last week after running for a career-high 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Jets were already selling Tomlinson jerseys on their official Web site within minutes of announcing the deal. The $80 green and white replicas are without a jersey number for now; third-year cornerback Dwight Lowery currently wears Tomlinson's familiar No. 21.
Tomlinson ran for 730 yards -- his first season under 1,000 -- on 223 carries for an average of 3.3 yards per carry, all career lows. He scored 12 touchdowns, but his role was reduced in an offense that shifted its focus to quarterback Philip Rivers and the passing game.
He's still regarded as an excellent route runner and superb receiver, two qualities that made him attractive to both New York and Minnesota.
Tomlinson is the latest high-profile player to be signed, drafted or acquired by the Jets in the last few years, joining Cromartie, Brett Favre, Kris Jenkins, Mark Sanchez, Bart Scott and Braylon Edwards.
With the Jets moving into the new Meadowlands Stadium, the 82,500-seat, $1.6 billion home they'll share with the Giants, Tomlinson's star power could potentially help the team sell more personal seat licenses.
More than that, though, New York hopes Tomlinson's contributions on the field are greater. While he likely won't be the focal point of the offense, as he had been for so many years with the Chargers -- a role he has said he's OK with -- the Jets are hoping he can still be a dangerous presence with the ball in his hands.
He's also familiar with the Jets' style of offense and coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who was San Diego's quarterbacks coach from 2002-05. The Jets have Sanchez returning for a second season, along with a solid offensive line that helped pave the way for New York to average a league-leading 172.2 yards on the ground per game.
Those factors might have helped the Jets beat out the Vikings for Tomlinson's services. While Minnesota was also just a game away from the Super Bowl, the uncertainty surrounding Favre's return might have caused Tomlinson to hesitate about signing with the Vikings.
Tomlinson met with Minnesota team officials Thursday, but left for the New York area without a deal. He then spent all of Friday with the Jets -- touring the team's facility and the new stadium -- before returning home to San Diego to mull his options on Saturday.
He was drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2001 out of TCU, and immediately became a star as he helped the Chargers become a perennial playoff contender. His 138 career touchdowns rushing rank second in NFL history, and his 153 total touchdowns rank third.
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