I know, I know - another Ladarius Green article. However, 2015 is a contract year for the talented but unproven tight end. Green's snap count dropped to under 300 last year, with reasons that include the words "raw" and "unpolished". Well, I am here to tell you that the talent level of this raw and unpolished player still makes him the best tight end on the roster.
Antonio Gates has publicly stated that he is looking for a reduced snap count, and the Chargers should absolutely grant him that. Adding multiple starting offensive lineman and trading up to select Melvin Gordon in the first round of the draft proves that the Bolts are looking to get their ground game back on track. That is tougher to do with such a major blocking liability at tight end in Gates. His poor technique and sheer unwillingness to block has given him a -21.7 run blocking grade over the past two seasons. Green actually has a positive grade over the same time-span (+3.0), albeit with a much smaller sample size.
As a receiver, Green is known for his limited route tree. This is where it is up to the coaching staff to make that tree work. Again we are talking about different sample sizes, but Green was even or better than Gates when it came to receiving efficiency (PFF's Yards per Route Run) as both an in-line tight end and a slot receiver.
There is no doubt that Gates' route running ability and veteran shifty-ness makes him a tremendous red zone threat, and that is where he should see the majority of his snaps. Third down passing situations and potential short touchdowns is where Gates has made his money in the past few years. If the Chargers are willing to pay him all 9.7 million of those dollars he is scheduled to earn this year, they should do him a favor and keep him off the field until he can do what he does best.
So, while those of you are weighing the risk of giving playing time to an unproven player over one soon ticketed for the Hall of Fame, I am here to tell you that there isn't really a risk at all. Ladarius Green is the better overall player, and there is room for playing time for both. For his sake, I hope Green can see the field enough to finally have a productive season and earn an extension.