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CHARGERS FREE AGENCY: Can they keep Gates and Green?

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With both of their top Tight Ends entering free agency this offseason, is there a way for the San Diego Chargers to hang on to both of them? If so, what would it cost?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As far as I'm concerned, there's really no way for the San Diego Chargers to re-sign free agent TEs Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green.

One or the other? Sure. Green would be silly to think he'd find a better situation than as the Chargers' starting TE. However, Gates would be the starting TE if he re-signs, in which case Green would be silly to think he wouldn't find a better situation than as the Chargers' backup TE.

Confusing, I know. Let's hit these one at a time.

Antonio Gates

The good news for the San Diego Chargers is that, if they want to re-sign Antonio Gates, their star TE will probably be a little cheaper on this go-around.

Last time Gates was signing a new contract with the team, he was heading into his prime as a 29 year old. He ended up signing a 5-year deal for a little more than $36 million. Now, at 35 years old and with a few lower-body injuries on his resume, a more reasonable contract would be a 2-year deal for $10-12 million.

That would free up about $3-4 million in cap space that the team could use elsewhere, but they would have to at least use part of that for a new backup TE....

Ladarius Green

One of the last draft picks by A.J. Smith, Green hasn't gotten much playing time under Tom Telesco.

Here's a look at the number of receptions Green has gotten every year he's been in the NFL:

4, 17, 19, 37

That last number was boosted by a 4-game run where Green filled in for a suspended Antonio Gates. Here's what he did in those games....

  • 5 catches (6 targets), 74 rec yds, 1 TD
  • 5 catches (6 targets), 47 rec yds
  • 4 catches (6 targets), 53 rec yds, 1 TD

Pretty great, right? Here's what those stats would look like over an entire season

56 catches, 696 rec yds, 8 TDs

Those numbers are very good, and that's with Green missing a game due to a concussion.

Green even kept it up as the team's #2 TE for a couple of games after Gates returned. Here was Antonio's first three  of games back:

  • 5 catches (5 targets), 50 rec yds
  • 3 catches (4 targets), 35 rec yds, 1 TD
  • 4 catches (9 targets), 45 rec yds, 1 TD

Wow! It really looks like Ladarius Green is an excellent weapon as Philip Rivers' #1 or #2 TE, especially in the red zone! (For what it's worth, Gates' put up even better numbers in those games.)

So, what happened after that? Well, Green stopped seeing the field and the ball. He's also struggled with injuries. Here's what Green did over his last 7 games of the season.:

11 catches, 125 rec yds

Ummm, those numbers stink.

Simply put, Green's career stands a much better chance of taking a step forward as a starting TE, which he proved he can be.

Green will likely get offers for $3-5 million per year, which is far too much for a backup TE that is only getting 15-20 receiving yards per game. If the Chargers want to keep him, they'll need to make the decision to move on from Gates.