The Chargers have a tight end problem after losing TE1 Hunter Henry to a torn ACL at OTAs, and Antonio Gates is still a free agent after his contract with the Chargers expired this offseason. The match almost makes too much sense, right?
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco seemingly agrees. On Friday, Telesco participated in an online chat with fans on the team’s website. When one fan, Jose Flores, asked Telesco about the possibility of bringing back Gates, Telesco admitted that the move would make sense, but declined to say if he planned on making it happen.
“Would be a natural fit, right?” he wrote. “I saw that Philip voted for it. When it comes to roster moves, we are not a democracy. But we are not a dictatorship either. His vote was noted and accounted for. Antonio’s accomplishments and contributions to this organization are immeasurable. We will see what the future holds. I don’t have an update at this time.”
Gates, who will turn 38 later this month, has spent his entire 15-year, Hall-of-Fame career with the Chargers, racking up 927 catches, 11,508 receiving yards, and 114 touchdowns along the way — all of which rank first in franchise history. But the two sides appeared to be heading toward a split this offseason.
Henry, who entered the fray as a second-round pick in 2016, has been slowly overtaking Gates as the Chargers’ top tight end. Over the past two seasons, Henry has totaled 81 receptions, 1,057 yards, and 12 touchdowns while serving as a capable blocker, which is why he landed so high on our top-25 players under the age of 25 list. Meanwhile, Gates has collected 83 receptions, 864 yards, and 10 touchdowns in that span.
2018 was supposed to be the year the torch was officially passed. In April, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Gates wanted to keep playing, but would not be continuing his career with the Chargers.
Suddenly, though, in the aftermath of Henry’s torn ACL, Gates returning to the Chargers almost makes too much sense. Even though his production has dipped in recent years as he’s aged, his chemistry with Philip Rivers remains unmatched (Rivers has already announced his desire to see Gates return). At the very least, he can still be a capable red-zone weapon and possession type of receiver. If the deal is cheap enough, you have to believe the Chargers will bring him back. If they don’t, their tight end group would likely be led by Virgil Green, who’s never exceeded the 250-yard mark in a single season.
At this point in the offseason, no great replacements for Henry exist. Gates is no longer a great option, but he’s at least reliable. And it seems like the perfect way and place for Gates to end his career.
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