Antonio Gates

AFC West Notes: Bolts, Gates, Rivers, Chiefs

Despite losing Hunter Henry to yet another serious injury, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn did not seem optimistic on a potential reunion with Antonio Gates, according to Eric D. Williams of ESPN. “I have not been in contact with Antonio,” Lynn said. “I’m not sure what his situation is.”

After Henry’s injury last year, Gates was brought back to the only organization he’s ever known, serving mostly in a backup role. Appearing in all 16 games for the Chargers, Gates totaled 28 receptions for 333 yards, with only two touchdowns.

In the interim, the Chargers seem content with expanding the roles of tight ends Virgil Green and Sean Culkin while Henry recovers from his injury. Green is coming off a lackluster 2018 campaign, where he hauled in 19 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown, while appearing in all 16 games for the Chargers. Despite this, he is expected to start, with Culkin serving in a back up role.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • For the second straight day, wide receiver Mike Williams was absent from Chargers practice, and is not looking good for Sunday’s game against the Lions, according to Eric D. Williams. Lynn has been concerned about the knee of Mike Williams, and another missed practice tomorrow would not bode well for his chances of suiting up this weekend.
  • On the most recent edition of the RapSheet + Friends Podcast, quarterback Philip Rivers spoke with NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport about a number of topics, including his current contract. “I really just feel at peace about that. Tom [Telesco] and I had really good conversations throughout the last couple months. I think it’s sincere, the both of us, really desire I’m still a Charger in 2020,” Rivers told Rapoport. “I think that sincerity will make it all work out. Had it worked out before the regular season got started, I’d have been fine with it, but it didn’t. Shoot, hey let’s just wait and it kinda worked best for both sides to do that. I really feel good about it. I’m in a good place.” Rivers is in the final year of a four-year, $83.25 million contract extension he signed in August 2015.
  • In an effort to create cap space, Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher‘s contract was restructured, which included the conversion of his $9.54MM base salary to a fully guaranteed roster bonus that will be prorated from 2019 to 2021, dropping his 2019 cap hit to about $6.4MM, according to Yahoo Sports’ Terez A. Paylor. Paylor also reports that linebacker Anthony Hitchens‘ restructure, which included the conversion of $5.6MM of his base salary to a fully guaranteed roster bonus that will also be prorated from 2019 to 2022, created roughly $4.2MM in cap room.

AFC West Notes: Chargers, Gates, Chiefs, Hill

The Chargers have had private talks with Antonio Gates about his status, GM Tom Telesco tells reporters (Twitter link via Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com). Williams’ read on the comments is that Gates will not be back, which makes sense since we have not heard much about the 39-year-old in recent months.

The Chargers brought Gates back for a 16th season after losing Hunter Henry to a season-ending injury, but they no longer have a dire need for tight end help. Barring something unforeseen, it sounds like they’ll finally move on from the eight-time Pro Bowler.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • There are ways the Chiefs could protect themselves in a potential new Tyreek Hill deal, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com writes. The Chiefs usually favor deals with substantial signing bonuses, but in this case, they could follow the 49ers’ team-friendly blueprint of bonuses that are metered out at specific dates. For example, they could advance the dates for injury guarantees, pack much of the compensation into annual per-game active roster bonuses, and broad language to shield against future incidents.
  • Raiders fullback Keith Smith suffered a knee injury while training and will be out a few weeks to begin training camp, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It’s possible they’ll sign another fullback as he recovers and Michael Gehlken of the Review-Journal (on Twitter) suggests that rookie Alec Ingold may push for a 53-man roster spot in his absence. Smith is due a $1.4MM salary in 2019 while Ingold is slated for just $495K.
  • The Broncos ended their kicking competition this week while opening up a punting battle.

West Notes: Gates, Matthews, Raiders, Cards

While the Chargers have a lesser need at the tight end position than they did when they brought Antonio Gates back for a 16th season, a 17th Gates campaign with the Bolts remains on the radar. But the team has the future Hall of Famer on the back-burner for the time being. Budgetary issues represent the Chargers’ near-future concerns, with Anthony Lynn saying (via Pro Football Talk) Tuesday the team informed Gates it may be a bit before a decision is reached on whether or not to bring him back. Tom Telesco sounded optimistic about a Gates return in January. Hunter Henry stands to be healthy for training camp, and Virgil Green remains on the roster. The Chargers had this duo healthy during free agency last year and bid farewell to Gates. Henry’s injury brought the parties back together, with Gates making $2.5MM. It will be interesting to see if the Bolts have all three on their roster this season.

Here is the latest from the West divisions:

  • With Isaiah Crowell set to visit the Raiders on Thursday, the futures of Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin may soon become even more uncertain. However, Jon Gruden said (via The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, subscription required) the door remains open on Lynch. Martin, however, may see Crowell — if Gruden gets his wish and he signs — push him aside. Martin’s asking price may have been too high, per Tafur (on Twitter). The Raiders had wanted to re-sign Martin, but not much has transpired on this front since free agency opened. Martin bounced back after consecutive seasons of 2.9 yards per carry, averaging 4.2 per tote and being the Raiders’ primary rusher following Lynch’s injury.
  • Clay Matthews received a decent mid-level deal to sign with the Rams, with Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com reporting (on Twitter) the veteran outside linebacker’s contract is for two years and $12.75MM. Of that total, $6.5MM is guaranteed. Matthews’ deal can max out at $16.75MM. Matthews made more than $10MM in base salary in each of the past two seasons.
  • The NFL has intervened on the Broncos‘ ownership situation. Roger Goodell said 49ers GM Carmen Policy is serving as the arbitrator for the dispute between the Broncos’ Pat Bowlen Trust members and the owner’s two oldest daughters — Beth Bowlen Wallace and Amie Klemmer, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post (Twitter links). This process began a few weeks ago. Both Bowlen Wallace and Klemmer have filed a motion to dismiss the arbitration, per Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (on Twitter). This is Policy’s first time serving as an NFL arbitrator. The Bowlen Trust members are seeking the arbitrator to determine who will take over as the next Broncos owner, among other points (per Jhabvala). Brittany Bowlen has long been viewed as the Trust’s preferred candidate, and the 29-year-old is expected to return to the Broncos this year.
  • A defensive tackle in the Chargers’ 4-3 defense the past two seasons, Darius Philon will return to a role as a 3-4 defensive end with his new team. The Cardinals are planning to use Philon as an end, Kliff Kingsbury said (via ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss, on Twitter).
  • C.J. Prosise saw another injury cost him time last season, and Pete Carroll said (via the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta) Tuesday the fourth-year running back underwent abdominal surgery recently. The Seahawks lost Mike Davis but still have Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. Carroll remains hopeful Prosise can contribute, but the former third-round pick has gained just 129 yards from scrimmage over the past two seasons.

Chargers Open To Antonio Gates Return

Last year, the Chargers were ready to move on from Antonio Gates and turn the keys over to rising star Hunter Henry. However, when a torn ACL sidelined Henry, the Bolts reverted to Gates with a new deal in September. Will he come back for yet another season? 

My heart says, yeah, he’ll be back next year,” Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said, via Sam Fortier of The Athletic. “But you put your GM hat on, and you look at what’s the role, where are resources are with the cap. We’ll come to that conclusion a lot quicker than we did last year.”

It’s hard to see Gates demanding much in the way of salary given his decline in usage and performance. Last year, even without Henry in his way, Gates finished out with just 28 catches for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Those are respectable numbers for your average tight end, but they were some of the lowest totals of Gates’ career.

Last year, Gates carried a $2.5MM charge against the Chargers’ cap. A similar deal could probably be struck, though the Bolts may want to keep the guaranteed base salary to a minimum in order to preserve their flexibility in the first couple of waves of free agency.

For his part, Gates wants to return. He’s also confident in his abilities, despite his advanced age.

The teams we played think I can still can play if they’re still doubling me,” Gates said.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Dolphins, Eagles, Brooks, Kelce, Gates, Chargers

The Dolphins are entering a complete rebuild in 2019, with a new head coach, new front office head, and likely a new quarterback. New GM Chris Grier is continuing to make moves, as he’s bringing in Bills national scout Marvin Allen to be his new assistant GM, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). It’s the latest in a series of coaching and front office swaps teams have made in the AFC East, with Adam Gase going from the Dolphins to the Jets, Brian Flores going from the Patriots to the Dolphins etc.

Schefter writes that Grier and Allen “have a strong relationship.” The Dolphins have perhaps the most unclear path forward of any team in the NFL with a ton of uncertainty, so Grier and Allen will have their work cut out for them. Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald chimed in with a tweet to say that Allen was “widely respected” and a “very good evaluator.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • We heard earlier today that Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks suffered a “serious” lower leg injury in the team’s loss to the Saints, and now we have some clarity. Brooks, who was recently named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl, tore his Achilles during the game, according to Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). He wasn’t the only significant player to tear his Achilles during the game, as Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins suffered the same injury. Brooks still has a couple years left back on the huge deal he signed in 2016, but he could miss a significant portion of the 2019 season with this injury. Pro Football Focus gave Brooks the ninth highest grade of any guard in the league, so it’s a massive blow to Philly’s offensive line.
  • Speaking of the Eagles, Brooks isn’t the only member of the offensive line they might be losing for 2019. All-Pro center Jason Kelce hasn’t decided whether or not he is going to play next year, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Kelce told reporters he has considered retiring each of the past couple seasons, so it sounds like a real possibility that he calls it quits this offseason. The 2011 sixth round pick turned 31 in November. If he does indeed retire, the Eagles’ offensive line would be a lot worse off next year.
  • Speaking of retirement, Antonio Gates isn’t ready to hang them up quite yet. Gates told reporters after the Chargers’ loss to the Patriots that he wanted to keep playing if the Chargers would take him back, per Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com. The all time leader in touchdown catches for tight ends was only brought back after Hunter Henry tore his ACL last May, so it’s unclear if the Chargers actually have any interest in retaining him for another year. The 38-year-old caught 28 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns this season. If he did play his final game today, he got a garbage time touchdown from Philip Rivers as a nice sendoff.

Antonio Gates Eyeing 17th Season?

It took Hunter Henry‘s injury and several weeks of back-and-forth discussions to bring Antonio Gates back to the Chargers for a 16th season. But the future Hall of Fame tight end may be hoping to delay his Canton ceremony.

Gates helped the Chargers secure their second playoff berth this decade, and he appears intent on seeing if he can squeeze in a 17th season.

I try to evaluate myself. I can still beat a linebacker; I feel like I can still play,” Gates said, via NFL.com’s Steve Wyche. “The hard part is I set the bar at a certain level, but I’ve adjusted to my role and I just love my teammates.”

Serving as mostly a backup this season, Gates has 28 receptions for 333 yards — the latter figure a slight increase from his 2017 showing in 16 games — and has added two touchdown grabs, increasing his tight end-record total to 116. No pure tight end has played past age 38, and Ben Watson will pass on trying to do this. Gates will turn 39 next summer. He cites his college basketball career as a reason he could keep playing into uncharted territory.

People also forget that I didn’t play college football so I haven’t taken that wear and tear,” Gates said.

The Chargers will have Henry and Virgil Green under contract in 2019, and the team issued a formal press release this past offseason to announce it was moving on from Gates after a storied 16-season run. No other team was connected to Gates prior to his Bolts reunion.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Notes: Chargers, Bosa, Raiders

The Chargers could be without star defensive end Joey Bosa on Sunday as he deals with an ongoing foot issue, head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters, including Jack Wang of the Orange County Register“It’s a possibility that he might not be with us,” Lynn said. “You know, we’re hopeful, but it’s possible…Foot injuries, they take on all the body weight.” Bosa hasn’t fully practiced in over a month, and Los Angeles likely doesn’t want to risk the health of its best defensive player, even though it’ll be facing a divisional opponent in the Chiefs. The Chargers, who will also be missing suspended defensive tackle Corey Liuget, would deploy second-year pro Isaac Rochell in Bosa’s stead, while Chris Landrum and second-round rookie Uchenna Nwosu could also see snaps.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Perhaps unsurprisingly given Bosa’s health issues, the Chargers were one of four teams that placed a waiver claim on former Lions defensive end Anthony Zettel, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com. The Packers, Vikings, and Browns (the latter of which had the No. 1 waiver priority and thus landed the ex-Detroit pass-rusher) also put in claims for Zettel, per Yates. Zettel is only 26 years old and started all 16 games for the Lions a season ago, so his release was certainly unexpected. Pro Football Focus graded Zettel as a top-50 edge defender in 2018, and he posted 6.5 sacks. A sixth-round pick in the 2016 draft, Zettel is under contract through 2019.
  • Franchise icon Antonio Gates will earn $2.5MM on his new one-year deal with the Chargers, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Gates will receive a $1MM signing bonus, and Pelissero previously reported the contract contains a few “reachable” incentives. Los Angeles had previously indicated Gates would not be re-signed for a 16th season, but after fellow tight end Hunter Henry went down with a torn ACL, the Chargers decided to bring Gates back into the fold. Gates is now 38 years old and posted only 316 receiving yards in 2017, but he’s still arguably an upgrade to Los Angeles’ tight end depth chart.
  • More from Pelissero, who reports the Raiders gave wide receiver Brandon LaFell $1.75MM on his one-year deal, including $835K guaranteed. As was the case with Gates, LaFell’s base salary would have become fully guaranteed in Week 1 anyway given that he’s a vested veteran, so the specific amount of guarantees at signing aren’t all that critical. LaFell’s contract also contains incentives that are apparently “likely to be earned” (and thus count against Oakland’s salary cap), as his cap charge for the year is ~$2.313MM. He’ll compete to be the Raiders’ fourth receiver behind Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and Seth Roberts.

Chargers To Sign Antonio Gates

The Chargers and Antonio Gates are getting back together. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that the Bolts and the future Hall-of-Famer have agreed to a deal that will allow Gates to return to LA. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network adds (via Twitter) that the pact includes some reachable incentives to make it worth Gates’ while.

After young tight end Hunter Henry went down with a torn ACL in May, the Chargers, who had previously told Gates that he would not be re-signed for a 16th season with the club, reconsidered their position. The two sides have been in contact over the past several months, and while the Chargers had hoped to have Gates in the fold before training camp, they were finally able to get a deal done today.

The 38-year-old is coming off a career-low 316 receiving yards, but the rapport between him and quarterback Philip Rivers cannot be understated. And while Gates is obviously not the same player he was in his prime, he still represents a credible receiving threat at the tight end position, which the playoff-hopeful Chargers desperately needed. Although the club has plenty of talent at the wide receiver and running back positions, having a security blanket like Gates will help the offense reach its full potential.

Gates’ accomplishments in the league are well-known. The former basketball star has amassed over 11,500 receiving yards, third-highest among tight ends in league history, to go along with 114 touchdowns, three First Team All-Pro bids, and eight Pro Bowls.

The Chargers are still hopeful that Henry could return late in the season, and if he does, that will make the team all the more threatening down the stretch and potentially into the postseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Cut Austin Howard, Reach 53-Man Roster

The Colts are at the 53-man roster max after making a bundle of transactions, including the release of offensive tackle Austin Howard.

[RELATED: Colts Cut John Simon]

The Colts invested $1.3MM guaranteed in Howard, but he was medically cleared until late July and struggled in camp and during the preseason. The Colts dangled him in trade talks this week, but there were no takers for him.

Despite his issues this summer, Howard had a solid 2017 with the Ravens and graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 36 offensive tackle. If healthy, he could draw interest from other teams.

The Colts also placed defensive end Chris McCain, linebacker Jeremiah George, defensive end Anthony Johnson, and tight end Ross Travis on injured reserve.

Here’s a look at the rest of the Colts’ moves:

Waived:

Last year, Bond ascended to the starting center job when Ryan Kelly broke his foot late in training camp. Unfortunately, a torn quad landed him on IR in October. This year, he’ll be looking for work elsewhere.

Alie-Cox was a former basketball player looking to transition to tight end. Although Antonio Gates and others have successfully made the jump, Alie-Cox has yet to find similar success.

In addition to the aforementioned moves, the Colts also waived the following players with an injury designation. If they clear waivers, then they revert to the Colts’ Injured Reserve list:

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.