Hunter Henry will now get to see how much he's worth on the open market as the Los Angeles Chargers have informed the veteran tight end that he will not be tagged prior to Tuesday's deadline. This means that Henry will become an unrestricted free agent and be able to sign with any interested team when the new league year begins on March 17. This is the opposite direction the club went in a year ago when they did place the franchise tag on Henry, delaying a potential departure until this offseason.
While the Chargers may now be bidding against other clubs, Henry returning to Los Angeles shouldn't be ruled out solely based off this news. The 26-year-old told SiriusXM NFL Radio that he "really enjoyed my time" in L.A. and wouldn't eliminate the idea of re-signing with the team even if he did end up on the free agent market. He also noted that his bond with reigning Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert developed quickly over the 2020 season, which could be another reason for him to stick around as the Chargers continue to build around their young quarterback.
If Henry does leave, however, he highlighted during that same interview that finding a spot with strong QB play will be a priority.
"I want to play somewhere there's a good quarterback," Henry said in mid-February. "That's huge for our position. It makes things a lot easier. ... Playing with a good quarterback always makes things better. You gotta look at both. You gotta look at some of the financial stuff, but not dive too deep into it that you go chasing it because I also want to play with a good quarterback."
According to Spotrac's market projections, Henry could be looking at a contract that will pay him an average annual salary of around $10.9 million. That's just above Browns right end Austin Hooper and below the likes of 49ers star George Kittle and Travis Kelce in Kansas City.
Based on a $180.5 million salary cap, Over the Cap projects the Chargers to have around $23.5 million in cap space to work with this offseason. That does put them in the discussion to retain Henry, but he will be a very sought-after piece for teams looking to add a highly talented pass-catching tight end.