Antonio Gates

Chargers Notes: Gates, Jones, Smith, Nwosu

After Hunter Henry was lost for the season with a torn ACL, it was immediately speculated that the Chargers might look to bring back Antonio Gates. Gates’ NFL career appeared to be over after the Chargers indicated they were moving on, but Henry’s injury threw him a lifeline.

Gates isn’t interested in playing for any other team, and the two sides had talks right after Henry went down. Despite there still being no deal in place with the preseason already underway, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said “we’re still talking with him” after the Chargers’ game against the Cardinals, according to Eric D. Williams of ESPN. Williams points out that the Chargers tight ends accounted for five drops in the preseason opener, and Lynn said “we need to make more plays at the tight end position.” It all sounds like eventually something will get done with Gates.

Here’s more from Los Angeles:

  • In the race to be Philip Rivers‘ backup between Geno Smith and Cardale Jones, Smith “appeared to seize control of the competition” with his strong performance in the first week of the preseason, Williams writes. Smith threw for over 200 yards while Jones, who started the game, threw for only 50 on 12 attempts.
  • Williams writes that rookie linebacker Uchenna Nwosu could start right away for the team. Nwosu, the 48th overall pick in this year’s draft from USC, had a sack and two quarterback hits in his professional debut.
  • In case you missed it, we took a look at the Chargers’ situation at guard as Forrest Lamp continues to rehab from a knee injury.

Extra Points: Gates, Chargers, Manziel, Richardson, AAF, Anthem

Chargers GM Tom Telesco acknowledged ongoing talks with TE Antonio Gates’ representation Thursday, but no deal” tweets Eric D. Williams of ESPN. Telesco also added that he believes Gates “can still be effective in the Chargers’ offense.” The Chargers looked set to move on earlier this offseason, but then Hunter Henry was lost for the season with a torn ACL. The team immediately expressed interest in bringing back Gates, but things have been slow moving ever since.

It’s unclear what is holding up contract talks, but it’s not a huge deal for a player who’s been around as long as Gates has to miss some of training camp. Perhaps he just wants to wait as long as possible and put little wear on his body before returning right before the regular season. Gates has said he has no intention of retiring, and it’s extremely unlikely he signs with any other team than the Chargers. A deal should get done at some point, and it would be a surprise if it isn’t announced soon. The future Hall of Fame inductee turned 38 in June.

Here’s more from around the football universe:

  • The Montreal Alouettes had been targeting Johnny Manziel for a while before they finally ended up trading for him, a source told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk. The Alouettes had tried to acquire Manziel’s rights before he even signed with the CFL, but were rebuffed.
  • Former number three overall pick Trent Richardson will sign with the Birmingham team in the newly created AAF, according to Matt Zenitz of AL.com. Richardson flamed out with the Browns and then Colts, and will be looking to revive his football career in the upstart league.
  • The league and NFLPA have been talking and negotiating about the anthem policy since before the July 4th holiday, a source told Albert Breer of SI.com. Breer disagrees with the league’s course of action, arguing the new “policy was a poor way to try to move the focus back to football.”

Chargers Negotiating With Antonio Gates

The Chargers are “actively negotiating” veteran tight end Antonio Gates‘ return to the club, Gates’ agent Tom Condon tells Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link).

Los Angeles told Gates in April that he would not be re-signed for a 16th campaign, but the team’s stance changed when third-year tight end Hunter Henry suffered a torn ACL in May. Since that time, the Chargers have expressed a willingness to reunite with Gates, and Josina Anderson of ESPN.com reported earlier today that Los Angeles wanted to re-sign Gates before the beginning of training camp.

Gates is now 38 years old and posted a career-low 316 receiving yards in 2017, but the Chargers’ tight end depth chart is currently devoid of a starting-caliber option. Los Angeles signed Virgil Green earlier this year, but the ex-Bronco is a career reserve who’s never been an offensive force. Other tight ends on the Chargers’ roster include Sean Culkin and Braedon Bowman.

Even if Gates does end up re-signing with Los Angeles, the Chargers will need to lean on their other offensive weapons — receivers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, and Travis Benjamin, plus running back Melvin Gordon — as Gates played on only 47% of the club’s offensive snaps in 2017. Given his age, it shouldn’t be a surprise if his snap count dwindles even further during the upcoming campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Want Gates To Sign Before Camp

Antonio Gates is still on the Chargers’ radar, but the team doesn’t want to wait forever for a deal to come together. It would be the Bolts’ preference for the tight end to re-sign with the team before camp starts, a team source tells Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter). 

In April, the Chargers announced that Gates would not be re-signed. However, things changed when tight end Hunter Henry went down with a season-ending injury. With a TE group consisting of Virgil GreenSean Culkin, and Braedon Bowman, the 38-year-old Gates may stand as their best option.

“Losing Hunter was a blow at the time, it is now but you have to overcome it,” GM Tom Telesco said recently. “That’s what you have to do.”

A Gates return would be well received in L.A., and quarterback Philip Rivers is among those pushing for it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Gates will be re-signed, however.

“Would be a natural fit, right? I saw that Philip voted for it. When it comes to roster moves, we are not a democracy,” Telesco said in June. “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.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

TE Antonio Gates Still On Chargers’ Radar

It’s been more than a month since we’ve heard about the Chargers’ interest in Antonio Gates, but it sounds like the team’s former Pro Bowl tight end is still on their radar. Talking to ESPN.com’s Eric D. Williams, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco acknowledged that the team has reached out to Gates. However, he noted that the team still has time to evaluate all of their potential options.

“There’s no update right now,” Telesco said. “We’ll see where things go next week. We’ve got a couple, different possibilities. We had talked about one obviously with Antonio Gates, and we’ll see where that goes. We’ve got some time here next week, so we’ll see what happens.”

The team had indicated early in the offseason that they were ready to move on from the 38-year-old. However, things changed when projected starter Hunter Henry tore his ACL in May, opening a big hole in the depth chart. The team is currently rostering Virgil Green, Sean Culkin, and Braedon Bowman at the position, but none of those options provide the offensive upside of Henry or Gates.

“Losing Hunter was a blow at the time, it is now but you have to overcome it,” Telesco said. “That’s what you have to do.”

Gates has spent his entire 15-year career with the Chargers organization. His numbers have predictably declined over the past several years, especially with the presence of Henry. Still, the veteran has found a way to contribute in the offense. After catching seven touchdowns during the 2016 campaign, Gates hauled in 30 receptions for 316 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games (four starts) last season.

While the Chargers would presumably prefer adding Gates over other free agent tight ends, there are still some notable names on the market, including Julius Thomas, Brent Celek, and Coby Fleener.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: Gates, Cardinals, Chiefs

Less than a month remains until the Chargers break for training camp, and they have not yet made a move to fill the void Hunter Henry‘s ACL tear created. The Bolts have reached out to Antonio Gates, but the future Hall of Famer remains unattached. However, longtime Gates teammate LaDainian Tomlinson believes the 38-year-old pass-catcher is not interested in overtures from other teams, especially given the Chargers’ current predicament.

I believe the only place Antonio wants to play is the Chargers,” said Tomlinson, who serves as a special assistant to the Chargers’ front office, on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via NFL.com). “I think he has the mind frame of, ‘If I go play, it’s gonna be for the Chargers. If it’s not the Chargers, then I’m good; I won’t play.”

Gates has not been connected to other teams this offseason. The Chargers and Gates have been circling each other for weeks now. A reunion — one Tom Telesco is now open to — may come during camp in the event the Bolts are not pleased with their tight end situation. Virgil Green represents the only proven healthy tight end on the roster at this point.

Shifting to one of the teams that will start camp earlier because of the hiring of a new head coach, here’s what’s new out of the West divisions.

  • Based on the events of this offseason, Christian Kirk expects the first NFL passes he’ll catch to be from Sam Bradford. Despite the Cardinals easing their injury-plagued acquisition into work, Kirk’s gotten the impression Bradford will be the starter in Week 1. “To be honest, just with what the coaches have said and just the way it’s looking, I’m pretty sure Sam is going to start,” Kirk said during an NFL Total Access appearance (via NFL.com). Bradford’s Vikings run encountered a steep descent after Week 1 of last season, so recent Josh Rosen praise is probably relevant to the Cards’ short-term matters as well as their long-distance future.
  • One of the Cardinals who can expect more work in 2018 will be Ricky Seals-Jones, per Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link). Jurecki sees the second-year UDFA seeing far more targets compared to the 28 he saw last season, even with Jermaine Gresham still on the team. Seals-Jones caught 12 passes for 201 yards and three TDs in 2017.
  • Attempting to piece together a new-look secondary, the Chiefs are trying Steven Nelson as an outside cornerback. Nelson played almost exclusively outside during Kansas City’s offseason program, per Nate Taylor of The Athletic (subscription required). “I’m an outside corner,” he said, via Taylor. “I’ll just say that. It’s up to the coaches. I can play both, I’m versatile. But for this (summer), I’ve been outside.” Nelson previously functioned as K.C.’s slot corner in both 2016 and ’17, but with Kendall Fuller now in line to commandeer that role, the Chiefs are shuttling Nelson to the boundary in advance of his contract year. Nelson served as a full-time corner in 2016 before an injury-plagued 2017, and a Fuller-Nelson-David Amerson setup could be in the works for K.C. post-Marcus Peters. Not much depth exists behind this troika, so this would be the logical top three going into camp.

This Date In Transactions History: NFL Suspends Gates, McClain, Richardson

The days leading up to the Fourth of July aren’t necessarily a hotbed of activity in the NFL. But, sometimes, the league office will use the cover of the holiday weekend to drop some unfavorable news. That’s what the NFL did on July 2, 2015 when it announced the suspensions of three notable players. 

Three years ago today, the league announced suspensions for Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson, and Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain. All three players were banned for the first four games of the season – Gates for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy and McClain and Richardson for substance abuse policy violations.

Gates issued a statement soon after the suspension came down, saying that he tested positive for a substance that he was unaware was on the league’s banned list. At the time, it felt like the ban could signal the end of the Gates era in San Diego and the beginning of the Ladarius Green era. Green had flashed his immense physical tools in the past, but was buried behind Gates on the tight end depth chart. Green was productive in Gates’ absence, but Gates came storming back when he took the field and finished ahead of Green in all major statistical categories. In the following year, Green went on to sign an ill-fated contract with the Steelers and Gates remained as the team’s primary tight end.

Richardson’s suspension, meanwhile, probably hurt his standing with his team. Richardson’s suspension gave rookie Leonard Williams a chance to shine and further reinforced the perception of him as a bad teammate. The former first-round pick turned in the worst season of his career to date and lost upwards of $600K in salary and bonus money as a result of the suspension. The Jets tried hard to trade Richardson throughout the 2016 season, but could not find any takers. Then, just before the start of the ’17 campaign, they shipped him to the Seahawks for wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick.

McClain’s suspension was the result of violating the league’s substance abuse policy for a fourth time in his NFL career. In a statement, McClain vowed that he would “not break the rules of [his] profession in the future.” Unfortunately, he was unable to keep that promise. In 2016, McClain was suspended for substance abuse yet again, this time for ten games. He later failed another drug test midway through the season, and the NFL slapped him with an indefinite suspension. McClain has reportedly battled an addiction to “purple drank” (a mixture of codeine-based cold medication and soda) and there has been no word of a potential comeback in some time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Reach Out To Antonio Gates

Could Antonio Gates return to the Chargers? It’s at least a consideration in L.A. as the Bolts have reached out to the tight end’s camp. 

Obviously, Antonio would be a natural fit,” GM Ted Telesco said on 97.3 FM (via Jack Wang of the L.A. Daily News). “He’s someone that we have talked to. We’ve talked to his representatives. Sometimes, it’s not just as easy as saying, ‘Hey, let’s just bring him back. Let’s go.’”

Gates, who will celebrate his 38th birthday on Monday, earned $5MM last season. It’s not clear whether he’s expecting a similar offer this time around. The Chargers, in theory, would have the flexibility to accommodate a similar deal with about $8.8MM in cap room and all of their rookies under contract. Still, the Bolts may be looking for Gates to take less.

In April, the Chargers announced that Gates would not be re-signed. However, the Chargers have a clear need at tight end following Hunter Henry‘s season-ending injury. Virgil Green is the only tight end of note currently on the roster and he is much more of a blocking specialist than a pass-catcher. None of the other tight ends of the roster have ever recorded a regular season catch in the NFL.

No one would expect Gates to reprise his excellence of, say, 2009, but he was still productive as recently as two years ago when he caught 53 passes for 548 yards and seven scores.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Brady, Gates, Peterson, Titans

In a recent opinion piece, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe makes the case that Tom Brady didn’t hold up his end of the bargain in trying to quell concerns about drama within the Patriots organization. Volin argues that coach Bill Belichick and Rob Gronkowski both did their best to assure the media and the public that all was good in New England, but that Brady raised more questions than he answered during his brief media availability.

Volin writes that the Patriots’ goal when Gronkowski and Brady finally returned to the team was to “show a united front, and squash all of the drama”, but that Brady failed to do so. According to Volin, Belichick did a “superb job” and Gronkowski did a “great job of explaining himself too”, but that Brady seemed like “he wants the drama to linger, to let it be known that he’s still upset with Belichick and the organization.”

Whatever is going on with the Patriots, it seems to be a saga with no end in sight. The issues likely won’t be put to rest for good until the team take the field in 2018 and shows they can still play at a championship level even with all the off-field distractions.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Antonio Gates isn’t a realistic candidate to be signed by the Bills, according to Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News. Despite the Bills being a bit thin at tight end behind Charles Clay, Skurski thinks the Bills would rather develop the young tight ends on their roster.
  • Adrian Peterson would like to play for the Texans, he told Mark Berman of Fox 26 (Twitter link). Peterson said “I would definitely love to be here in Houston. I think I can help them out tremendously..I still got it.” Peterson has repeatedly expressed his desire to continue playing, but hasn’t drawn much interest.
  • Rookie tight end Ethan Wolf is a “long shot” to make the Titans roster, according to Jim Wyatt of Titansonline.com. Wyatt thinks he’ll end up on the outside looking in due to the Titans’ full tight end depth-chart, but that he’s a potential practice squad candidate.

Chargers GM Talks Henry, Gates, Draft

Following an eventful offseason that saw the Chargers suffer a major injury, draft seven rookies, and sign a handful of free agents, general manager Tom Telesco took to Chargers.com to answer fans’ questions. The executive touched on a number of subjects, including his team’s draft strategy and the Chargers’ plans at tight end.

The entire Q&A is worth checking out, but we’ve listed some of the notable soundbites below:

On tight end Hunter Henry‘s recovery from a torn ACL:

“Hunter had surgery yesterday and is home resting and rehabbing already. Everything went well. He will attack his rehab with the same enthusiasm as he plays the game. He will be back stronger and better than ever.”

On a potential reunion with veteran tight end Antonio Gates:

“Would be a natural fit, right? I saw that Philip [Rivers] 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.”

On why the team hasn’t drafted “skilled offensive lineman”:

“It’s a priority every year. We have drafted OL in the top 3 rounds 3x in the last couple years, mostly recently with Forrest Lamp in the 2nd and Dan Feeney in the 3rd. Both are skilled. Both are tough. And both have bright futures.”

On the Chargers’ weaknesses at run defense:

“Our run defense needs to improve. It comes from all 11 players on defense, not just the front 7. To give some perspective though, the top 5 teams in avg rushing yards allowed per game were: Browns, Broncos, Cards, Titans, and Eagles. Combined record 33-42 going into week 17. Worst 5 teams were: Chargers, Patriots, Rams, Jags, and Steelers. Combined record 53-22. We never want to be in the bottom 5 in anything, and improvement is needed. But we have to be balanced and smart.”

On the oddest contract clause he’s seen throughout his career.

“It wasn’t with the Chargers, but we once had an incentive clause to pay a player a certain amount of $ for 10 or more blocked punts. The player was an offensive lineman.”

His perception of the team following the draft and free agency:

“We have some talent on this team this year. But the talent level in the NFL is not much different from the top team to the 32nd team. Every team has talent. We have a great group of coaches, led by Anthony Lynn, who will have an excellent game plan for our players. But the NFL is a very competitive league and there are 31 other great coaching staffs. The key is to have the talent buy in to the coaching staff’s game plan. We control that, nobody else does. And that is what the off-season and training camp is all about. I love what I have seen thus far and I am excited for the future.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.