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San Diego Chargers Will Keep RB Darren Sproles

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from Kevin Acee:

The Chargers have changed their minds.

The team is placing a first-and-third tender on running back Darren Sproles, sources said Thursday morning.

Sproles had been notified last week the Chargers would not tender him as a restricted free agent and would allow him to test the market as an unrestricted free agent.

The move guarantees Sproles a salary of $7.27 million if he stays with the Chargers, unless the club can sign him to a long-term deal. He made $6.62 million last season as the Chargers' franchise player and is entitled to a 10 percent raise.

The Chargers' initial thinking in not tendering Sproles was that they couldn't justify paying a kick returner and third-down back that much. They had hoped to continue talking to him about a multiyear contract even as he tested the market.

Everyone, please take note: Darren Sproles is not stupid.  Now the team and him can negotiate a long-term deal, but if he's not happy with what they're offering he can stay right where he is and be one of the highest paid RBs in the league in 2010.

I for one feel better knowing that we now only have to look for one RB and not two.  However, to be paying Sproles like he's one of the league's top RBs for two seasons seems incredible (for a team that's usually pretty tight with the purse strings).  I bet, before the deadline where Darren has to accept the tender, he and the team agree on a long-term deal that pays him $3-4 million per season.