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Rosenthal: Makes sense for Chargers to tag Hunter Henry

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Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

The LA Chargers have only used the franchise tag once in the last decade, when GM Tom Telesco felt it was his best chance to retain edge rusher Melvin Ingram in 2017. As one of the NFL’s most conservative and risk averse general managers, Telesco has not used the tag at any other time but that could change this year if things don’t progress with the top outgoing free agent who they want to retain ... which by now we know is not Philip Rivers.

Telesco’s focus can instead remain on starting tight end Hunter Henry, who NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal believes should be tagged if the team can’t come to a contract agreement by the deadline.

Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers: The franchise tag for tight ends is projected to be just over $11 million. That price seems more than fair for one of the most dynamic young pass-catching tight ends in football, even if Henry has struggled with durability at times.

Henry missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL and then sat out four games early in the year with a tibia plateau fracture (knee). (Suddenly apropos of nothing it occurs to me that “knee” is a funny word and feels like a body part that would’ve been made up by J.R.R. Tolkien. “The Hobbits also had these things called knees, but the most Hobbit-y part of all is that the “k” is silent. “Watch out for your knees!” yelled Gandolf, knowing how close those little Hobbit knees were to the stones on the ground.”)

Oh right, serious football content.

Despite his two significant injuries, Henry played like a tight end worthy of his 2016 draft status, when he was the 35th overall pick. He caught 55 passes out of 76 targets, averaging 8.6 yards per target and 11.8 yards per reception. Among tight ends with at least 50 targets, Henry ranked seventh in yards per target and fifth in yards per catch. He also scored five touchdowns in only 12 games; Travis Kelce scored five in 16 games, George Kittle scored five in 14 games.

That puts his FootballOutsiders rankings into better context as well: Henry ranked fifth in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement and ninth in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average among all tight ends.

Were Henry to make $11 million on the franchise tag next season, he’d be the fourth-highest paid tight end of 2020 after Zach Ertz ($12.4), Jimmy Graham ($11.6), and Kelce ($11.2). However, we know that Graham is likely to be released, though pending free agent Austin Hooper is a candidate to replace him on the money list. An $11 million price tag is probably more than a team needs to pay Henry for 2020 if they simply sign him to a contract, as recent signees Tyler Higbee ($8.6) and Darren Waller ($7.5) have cap hits well below that.

There’s no reason though that Telesco can’t fit Henry under the cap regardless. The Chargers have a projected $49 million in space and no must-keep pending unrestricted free agents besides Henry.

Teams can designate their franchise and transition tag players beginning on February 27 with a deadline to do so by March 12 at 1 PM PT.

Poll

Should the Chargers tag Hunter Henry?

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  • 86%
    Yes
    (269 votes)
  • 13%
    No
    (42 votes)
311 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Is "knee" a funny word?

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  • 34%
    Yes
    (65 votes)
  • 65%
    Kno
    (125 votes)
190 votes total Vote Now