The Los Angeles Chargers lost tight end Hunter Henry for the season after he suffered a torn ACL in OTAs last Tuesday.
This is a huge loss for the Chargers. Henry was a key part to their offense and would have been one of the most reliable targets for Philip Rivers. Henry caught 45 passes for 579 yards and found the end zone four times last season.
Now, Los Angeles is in big trouble in the tight end department. Aside from Henry, Virgil Green is the only tight end on the roster who has recorded a catch in his career. And Green has never been much of a receiving threat, in his seven year career, he has accumulated just 807 receiving yards.
The Chargers have to make a move or two to replace Henry’s production. Luckily, there are still a handful of appealing options, and a well-known veteran who could rejoin his team.
Option 1: The Return of Antonio Gates
Los Angeles decided not to offer a contract to Antonio Gates this offseason, effectively ending the future Hall of Famer’s career. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him come back in 2018 after Henry’s injury.
Yes, Gates is a shell of himself, but he was still semi-productive as the number two tight end last season as he racked up 316 yards on 30 catches. His familiarity with Rivers cannot be overstated and teams will always pay him close attention to him in the red zone.
From a public relations standpoint, this is the move most fans want. Gates is a well-known name and has produced for almost 15 years. It was time for Henry to take over, but now that he is out of the picture this season, Gates may have one more run left in him.
Option 2: The Free Agent Market
Even if the Bolts decide to bring back Gates, this option is still likely on the table. Gates alone won’t be able to handle all of the snaps, so pairing him with another free agent could be the move.
There are still some intriguing names left on the market and with Rivers at quarterback, Los Angeles may be the perfect destination for potential career rejuvenation.
At one point, Thomas was mentioned as one of the best tight ends in the league. He had tremendous success with the Denver Broncos where he made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2013 and 2014.
Thomas then signed a massive deal with Jacksonville and has since been an afterthought. He may not be the player that he once was, but Thomas still has the ability to be a weapon in the passing game.
The Saints released Fleener after suffering his fifth concussion of his career. Fleener signed a 5-year deal with New Orleans and has struggled with injuries of late.
The 29-year-old has caught 255 passes for 3,080 yards in his career and has been a reliable target for Andrew Luck and Drew Brees.
Arguably the most talented option on the market, Fleener’s injury history may force the Chargers to shy away from him.
Brent Celek, Martellus Bennett, and Anthony Fasano
A group of veteran tight ends that may be an option for the Chargers. Odds are, none of these names excite you.
These guys probably won’t get much attention, but Los Angeles is in desperation mode and everyone should at least get some consideration.
Option 3: Trades, Trades, and more Trades
This would cause all hell to break loose. The rumors about Gronkowski’s future with the Patriots are well documented, but there doesn’t appear to be a link here.
Gronkowski has a well-documented history with injuries and would cost a pretty penny not only in terms of draft capital, but he is due to make roughly $20 million over the next two seasons.
Plus, Los Angeles’ general manager Tom Telesco hasn’t showed the willingness to trade draft picks and New England would ask for quite the haul if they were to trade Gronk.
This would be a franchise altering deal and it seems the Patriots are moving ahead with Gronkowski anyway. Reports are that both sides have agreed to restructure his deal.
Davis has had the definition of a resurgence with Washington. After his career with the San Francisco 49ers went south, it appeared to be the end of the road for the two-time Pro Bowler.
All of a sudden, he has become an important piece for a Redskins offense. Even so, he sits behind the talented, but oft-injured Jordan Reed.
Davis snagged 87 passes for 1231 yards for Washington over the past two seasons. Los Angeles could not only get a viable pass catcher, but a veteran who could do some good in a win-now situation.
A top-ten pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Ebron has yet to live up to the hype. Los Angeles may be willing to take a flyer on the UNC product in the hopes that Rivers can revive a disappointing career.
The Colts just signed Ebron to a 2-year, $15 million deal back in March, but with Jack Doyle ahead of him on the depth chart, the Chargers could pry him away with a Draft pick.
The trade market will be tough to maneuver at this point in the offseason, but it’s still an option for a team with nowhere else to turn.