With the deadline to sign franchise-tagged players to long-term extensions coming up in a matter of hours, it’s almost certain that the LA Chargers and tight end Hunter Henry will not make an 11th-hour decision, meaning the fifth-year pro will play on the franchise tag in 2020. The one-year deal will be worth $10.6 million, making him the highest-paid at the position for the time being.
In a difficult year for franchise tagged players with so much economic uncertainty, here is another that’s expected to play on the 1-year tag: #Chargers TE Hunter Henry. He’s already signed his tag, he’s in for 2020 and a big part of LAC’s present and future. But no extension.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 15, 2020
Over the past few months, Henry didn’t show much urgency to get the deal done before the deadline. Last time he spoke publicly about the matter, he said there wasn’t much in the way of talks between his people and the Chargers, but that he was confident a deal will get done at some point, whether that was before or after the upcoming season.
In his four years at the professional level, Henry has dealt with a few minor injuries coupled with one big one, when he tore his ACL prior to the team’s phenomenal 2018 season. He has yet to play in all 16 games during a given year but started every game he played in this past season. In 2019, across 12 starts, he recorded career-highs in catches (55) and yards (652) to go with five touchdowns. As a rookie in 2016, Henry set his career-best in touchdowns with eight.
Through four up-and-down seasons, Henry has played in 41 total games with 35 career starts. During his first two seasons, only Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce recorded higher receiving grades by Pro Football Focus. Prior to the 2019 season, the duo of Henry and Philip Rivers produced the highest receiver rating in the PFF era (since 2006) by a wide margin.
After missing the entire 2018 regular season due to injury, #Chargers TE Hunter Henry is back healthy for 2019.— PFF IND Colts (@PFF_Colts) September 6, 2019
The Philip Rivers to Henry connection has generated a passer rating of 143.7, the highest of any QB/receiver duo in the @PFF era. (min 100 targets) pic.twitter.com/dHfWmMc4ph
So, here’s the deal. We all know how good Henry is when he is healthy. But like it always is, health is the key factor here. Is he valuable enough when playing in ~12 games per year to warrant a long-term contract from the Chargers? Personally, yes, I think he is, but this is something the team will have to figure out while also navigating the tumultuous 2020 season that’s right around the corner.
UPDATE: With the deadline now passed, Henry will officially be playing on the franchise tag in 2020.