Antonio Gates

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.

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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.”

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AFC Notes: Rivers, McCain, Browns

Before the dust had even settled after Hunter Henry‘s season-ending ACL tear, rumors began to swirl about the Chargers potentially bringing back Antonio Gates. It had just recently been reported that the Chargers were moving on from Gates after his historic 15-year run with the team.

A wrench was possibly thrown into those plans when Henry went down with a devastating non-contact injury during OTAs. Chargers general manager Tom Telesco refused to rule out re-signing Gates when asked about it last week. Now, Gates has at least one public supporter in his longtime quarterback Philip Rivers.

Well, shoot, I’d always be excited if he walked back in the door obviously,” Rivers said (transcription via PFT). “That’s something that [GM] Tom [Telesco] and [owner] John [Spanos] and coach [Anthony Lynn] and those guys I’m sure will discuss and see about bringing anybody in for that matter, but certainly [Gates’ return] would get my vote.”

Rivers sounds excited about the potential reunion, which makes sense considering his history of utilizing tight ends. For years, Rivers had a reliable target in Gates and he continued that trend last year with Henry. Now, with Gates in limbo and Henry sidelined, Rivers lacks a quality middle-of-the-field and red zone threat at the tight end position.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • The Dolphins will look to extend cornerback Bobby McCain, Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald (Twitter link) speculaties. McCain, a fifth-round pick back in 2015, is heading into the final year of his contract. Salguero thinks the Dolphins will look to lock up McCain with an extension sometime after June 1, when the cap space they freed up from the release of Ndamukong Suh becomes available.
  • The Browns may look to trade one of their surplus wide receivers, Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer opines. After trading for Jarvis Landry and drafting Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley, the Browns’ wide receiver room is a bit crowded. Cabot thinks returning players Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis, and Rashard Higgins all will be available for trade at some point this summer. With Josh Gordon in the mix as well, the Browns simply have too many receivers, and will need to deal or cut at least a couple of them.

Poll: Should The Chargers Re-Sign Gates?

Earlier this year, the Chargers informed Antonio Gates that they would not re-sign him for a 16th season with the Bolts. However, their situation has changed in recent days after Hunter Henry‘s season-ending ACL tear. 

We’ll look at all the options that are out there. We’ve got time to do it right now,” GM Ted Telesco said when asked about Gates earlier this week.

Gates, 38 in June, isn’t quite the player he was in 2009, but he was highly productive as recently as two years ago when he caught 53 passes for 548 yards and seven scores. On a limited snap count, Gates could help replace some of Henry’s production in 2018, even if he doesn’t match his 12.9 yards per catch average.

Gates’ familiarity with the Chargers’ offense and personnel also shouldn’t be discounted. He’s been catching passes from Philip Rivers since 2004 while earning eight Pro Bowl nods and three First-Team All-Pro selections along the way.

The 6’4″ tight end probably represents the splashiest move they could make, but he’s not the only noteworthy tight end available. Julius Thomas, Brent Celek, and Coby Fleener are all out there for the taking and it’s possible that one of those three players would be more amicable to playing in a limited role than Gates.

Alternatively, the Chargers could patch things up at TE by shifting sixth-round rookie Dylan Cantrell from receiver to tight end. Cantrell has the height (6’3″) and may have blocking ability ability to make the move, but he’s untested.

All things considered, do you think the Chargers should change course and re-sign Gates? Cast your vote below and support your decision in the comment section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Won’t Rule Out Antonio Gates

After losing Hunter Henry to a torn ACL, the Chargers say they will search high and low for potential replacements. That could include a reunion with Antonio Gates, even though the team previously told the veteran that he would not be re-signed

[RELATED: Chargers’ Henry Suffers ACL Tear, Will Miss 2018 Season]

We’ll look at all the options that are out there. We’ve got time to do it right now,” GM Ted Telesco said when asked about Gates (Twitter link via Greg Beachem of the Associated Press).

Gates, 38 in June, still intends to play and it would only make sense for him to return to the only NFL team he has ever known. He’s no longer the elite option that he was in his prime, but he showed last year that he still has something to offer and he stands as one of the better available options at this juncture of the offseason.

Last year, Gates saw less targets than Henry and finished out with 30 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Those were his lowest totals in each category since his 2003 season.

Gates’ last deal paid him roughly $11MM between 2016 and 2017. A new deal with Gates would surely be a one-year pact and would likely cost the team less than $5.5MM. Right now, the Chargers’ tight end depth chart is headlined by Virgil Green, who is more of a blocker than a pass-catcher. After that, they have a pair of former UDFAs in Sean Culkin and Braedon Bowman.

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Extra Points: Gates, Ray, Giants, Cowboys

Last week, news broke that the Chargers and Antonio Gates would not reunite for a 16th season. The Bolts confirmed this on Monday.

Antonio is not only one of the best Chargers of all-time, but he’s one of the best football players in the history of our game,” Tom Telesco said, via Ricky Henne of Chargers.com. “He has meant so much to this organization — both on the field, off the field, in San Diego, in Los Angeles — and we can’t say enough about the type of person he is, and player.

“These decisions are really, really difficult. … There aren’t many guys like him that come along, and I’ve been doing this for 20 years and have had a chance to be around some special players — some special Hall of Fame players — but nobody greater than what he did at his position.”

The Chargers signed former Broncos starter Virgil Green this offseason, and the blocking tight end will pair with Hunter Henry. Gates wants to catch on elsewhere and play what would be his age-38 season. His 114 touchdown receptions are the most by a tight end in NFL history and sixth all-time for any pass-catcher.

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • Another AFC West team has a decision regarding a player’s future due soon, and the Bradley Chubb pick may be clouding the Broncos‘ fifth-year option choice on Shane Ray. It’s far from a certainty the Broncos pick up Ray’s 2019 option, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. Prior to the draft, Ray expected the Broncos to pick up his option — worth $9.232MM. John Elway did not reveal which way he was leaning, and that was before Chubb’s arrival. A 2015 first-round pick, Ray has enjoyed intermittent success, registering eight sacks in 2016, but has missed time due to injuries in 2015 and ’17. Denver also has contract-year outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett on its roster. The Broncos won’t be able to retain both after this season, and keeping either may prove difficult now that Chubb’s in the mix. Denver is projected to possess $28MM-plus in 2019 cap space but has UFAs-to-be like Barrett, Matt Paradis and Bradley Roby potentially on the docket to comprise some of those available dollars.
  • Dave Gettleman didn’t seem too interested in the interest that came his way for the No. 2 pick, but the Giants‘ first-year GM did tell WFAN (via Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com, on Twitter) one team made a respectable offer. It’s uncertain which team supplied such a proposal, but before the draft, a report emerged indicating the Broncos had interest in moving up to No. 2. Elway held Sam Darnold atop his quarterback-prospect hierarchy but elected to stay put and take Chubb.
  • For now, Connor Williams will try to win the Cowboys‘ starting left guard job, Dallas VP of player personnel Will McClay confirmed during a Sirius XM Radio interview (Twitter link). But the Texas tackle will also be viewed as depth behind Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, the latter of whom has multiple years of experience as the Cowboys’ left guard starter. The Cowboys struggled to replace Ronald Leary at left guard last season, and Jonathan Cooper ventured to the 49ers in free agency.

Chargers Won’t Re-Sign TE Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates’ time with the Chargers appears to be over. The Bolts informed the tight end this offseason that they do not plan to bring him back to Los Angeles, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. However, Gates wants to continue playing, so it sounds like he’ll finish his career elsewhere.

Gates will turn 38 in June, but he believes that he still has something left in the tank. The Chargers do not necessarily agree. Last year, he saw less targets than youngster Hunter Henry and finished out with just 30 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Those were his lowest totals in each category since his 2003 season.

The NFL’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions among tight ends with 114, Gates served in a complementary role last season. He caught three TD passes to eclipse Tony Gonzalez in this category, but the 30 receptions and 316 yards marked significant production dips from his 2016 slate.

The eight-time Pro Bowl pass-catcher has only played for one team since coming into the league as a UDFA out of Kent State. But the Bolts look set to turn to Henry, who has emerged as their go-to tight end in his two seasons. Gates signed a two-year deal with the Chargers in 2016 and made $11MM. He’ll surely have to play on a one-year commitment if he lands elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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Antonio Gates Leaning Towards Return

This may be the end of the line for Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith and Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware, but Antonio Gates feels that he still has lots of football left in him. The veteran says that he is “definitely leaning toward coming back,” Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego tweetsAntonio Gates

[RELATED: Chargers Move Kenneth Farrow To IR]

This is not the way I expected to be done. I’m definitely leaning toward coming back,” Gates said in a likely reference to the Chargers’ 5-10 record heading into the season finale.

In 13 games this year, Gates has 48 catches for 493 yards and six touchdowns. Even though he’ll turn 37 in June, it seems like Gates can still be a highly productive tight end. Hunter Henry may be next in line at the position, but the Bolts surely want to keep Gates around for as long as possible. He is under contract for 2017 with a base salary of $4.5MM.

Gates and the Chargers will wrap up the season against the Chiefs on Jan. 1. As of this writing, the Chargers are slated to have the No. 7 overall pick in the draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.