Tomlinson played nine seasons in San Diego, but at the age of 30 and with declining numbers, Tomlinson has been anticipating his release for the past month.
"This is a part of the business that I hate, and it's particularly hard when you're dealing with someone I consider a friend," Spanos said in a statement. "Change involving great players is never easy. I respect L.T. as much or more than any player I've ever known. And no one appreciates his contributions to this organization more than I do. That is why this is such a difficult announcement for me to make."
Tomlinson rushed for 12,490 yards in nine seasons and rushed for 138 touchdowns during his career in San Diego. He caught 530 passes and scored 15 touchdowns through the air.
A former first-round pick, Tomlinson rushed for only 730 yards in 14 games last season and had a 3.3-yard rushing average. He struggled on first down during the Chargers playoff loss to the New York Jets.
Still, the Tomlinson years were some of the best in Chargers history. Tomlinson immediately established himself as a star during a rookie season in 2001 when he rushed for 1,236 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. His ability to run, make big plays and score touchdowns helped allow quarterbacks Drew Brees and Philip Rivers to develop into Pro Bowl stars.
The Chargers reworked Tomlinson's contract last offseason to give him one more chance to re-establish himself as a top running back. He was scheduled to get a $2 million bonus in March and a $3 million base salary under the restructured contract.
At 30, Tomlinson will have to find a new team to restart his career.
John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.
Edit by Jonathan: The talk after the stunning playoff loss to the Jets, was the future of LT, and how he was probably going to get the boot. He even said it himself that didn't expect to be back next season. So, no; this isn't a big surprise to Chargers nation. It doesn't suck any less, though. I'll have more of my thoughts later on in the evening.