For the first time in six years, a tight end will receive the franchise tag. The Chargers are following through with their rumored plan to tag Hunter Henry. The Bolts will cuff their fifth-year tight end, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
No tight end has been franchise-tagged since the Saints locked down Jimmy Graham in 2014. Henry’s price will come in a bit higher. It will cost the Chargers approximately $11.1MM to tag Henry, making him the NFL’s highest-paid tight end for the time being. This ensures the promising but injury-prone target will not hit the market and thus potentially help another team that is courting Tom Brady.
The Patriots have needed a tight end for over a year now, having not replaced Rob Gronkowski. They naturally would have been a Henry fit, but the Bolts — also in the hunt for Brady — now have Henry’s retention as a selling point. The Chargers have Henry, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams under contract for 2020. They just extended RFA Austin Ekeler as well, giving Philip Rivers‘ to-be-determined successor a nice complement of weapons.
Henry, however, is not yet a surefire bet to be a long-term Pro Bowl candidate. He has flashed promise and posted career-high catch (55) and yardage (652) numbers last season, those coming in just 12 games. But Henry tore his ACL in 2018, missing the regular season, and missed four games due to a knee injury last season as well.
The Bolts will have roughly $46MM in cap space after tagging Henry. Unlike the Raiders, they have not yet shown an indication they are backing out of the Brady sweepstakes. At just 25, however, Henry profiles as a player who would stand to help the next long-term Chargers quarterback. He, Williams and Ekeler are each 25 or younger.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.