The Chargers likely will consider re-signing Gates in the wake of Hunter Henry's (knee) season-ending ACL tear, Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com reports. Two factors played into the Chargers opting to move on from Gates this offseason: his age (he'll turn 38 in June) and a desire to expand the workload of Henry, a 2016 second-round pick. On the first day of OTAs on Tuesday, though, Henry sustained the devastating injury. The front office is surely scouring the free-agent market for available tight ends, which includes Gates, Julius Thomas and Coby Fleener. Due to his track record with Philip Rivers, Gates is the clear-cut top candidate to don the navy, gold and powder blue of the Chargers again in the near future.
Gates wants to continue playing football, even though the Chargers told him this offseason they don't plan to re-sign him, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports. Having spent his entire career with the Chargers, the 37-year-old tight end widely was expected to decide between re-signing with the team and retiring. It now seems he's considering a third option, one that likely would involve competing for a part-time role while playing for far less than what he's accustomed to earning. Gates didn't appear to have much left in the tank last season, catching 30 of 52 targets for 316 yards (6.1 per target) and three touchdowns in 16 games. His presumed departure from Los Angeles should free up more opportunities for Hunter Henry, who caught 45 of 63 targets for 579 yards (9.1 YPT) and four touchdowns in 14 games last year.
Gates remains unsigned, making it unclear if he plans to continue playing football, Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times reports. Gates indicated at the end of last season that he intended to return for another year, presumably planning to re-sign with the only team he's ever played for. Rather than immediately re-signing Gates at the start of the free agency period, the Chargers lured blocking specialist Virgil Green away from Denver. The team may be preparing to give Hunter Henry (abdomen) a typical starter's workload, after watching the 2016 second-round pick haul in 81 of 115 targets for 1,057 yards (9.2 per target) and 12 touchdowns in 29 games the past two years. Gates caught 83 of 144 targets for 864 yards (6.0 per target) and 10 scores in 30 games over that same period, proving to be far less efficient than his young teammate. He'll turn 38 in June and likely would have his role scaled back even further if he were to re-sign with the Chargers.
Gates indicated he plans on returning for the 2018 season, but didn't rule out joining another team during the offseason, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. Gates quietly faded into a backup role behind emerging young tight end Hunter Henry, but a lacerated spleen in Week 14 to the aforementioned starter thrust the 37-year-old back into the spotlight. Despite a noticeable lack of speed, Gates was still a receiving force to end the campaign, totaling 10 receptions (14 targets), 127 receiving yards and a touchdown over the final two weeks of the season. Gates himself seemed to be pleased with the performance, suggesting it "reinforced" he could still play in the NFL: "Sometimes when you're in a backup role, you're not sure what you can do because you're not put in position to do it. I had an opportunity these last two weeks to see what I could do physically, and I felt good." An unrestricted free agent entering the offseason and already boasting a resume worthy of a future Hall of Famer, Gates appears set to look for an elusive Super Bowl win, whether it be on the Chargers or another team on the brink of contention. While a starting workload might be too much to ask of Gates, who will turn 38 in June, the veteran tight end could be a serviceable member for any team in need of a reliable receiving threat and a positive leader in the locker room.
Gates indicated Sunday following the Chargers' 30-10 victory over the Raiders that he intends to play in the NFL in 2018, Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News reports. Though Gates took on even more of a backseat to second-year tight end Hunter Henry in the Chargers' passing attack in 2017, he still proved effective in a secondary role, hauling in 30 of 52 targets for 316 yards and three scores. Gates, who is set to become a free agent this offseason, will turn 38 years old in June and will most likely have to settle for a one-year deal if he elects to keep his career going.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|1||09/09||Kansas City Chiefs||12||6.06|
|3||09/23||@Los Angeles Rams||19||6.82|
|4||09/30||San Francisco 49ers||18||6.75|
|15||12/14||@Kansas City Chiefs||12||6.06|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||76||46||498||5||28||10.83||79|