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Chargers 2021 Pre-Free Agency Overview: Tight Ends

Let’s talk about a position group that has the possibility to look fairly different in 2021.

New York Jets v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Today, we’re talking tight ends in our pre-free agency positional overview ahead of free agency beginning next Wednesday.

As of right now, all but one tight end is expected to be a free agent and that’s Donal Parham. Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, and Stephen Anderson — all of whom were above Parham on the depth chart in 2020 — will hit the market with the chance to return on a new deal.

With the small chance that all of them could end up elsewhere in 2021, this is a position that could look completely different by the team the season begins in September.

Let’s take a look.

On Roster: Donald Parham

Prior to joining the Chargers last offseason, Parham enjoyed a breakout season in the XFL cut short by the pandemic where he recorded 24 catches for 307 yards and four touchdowns through the league’s five games played.

After signing with the Bolts, Parham was seen as a high-upside, low-risk addition that could become quite the anomaly in the NFL at his true 6’8 size. While he didn’t see a ton of action in 2020, he took advantage of his limited opportunities, as well as the season-ending injury to Virgil Green, to record 10 catches for 159 yards and three touchdowns.

Going forward, I like his prospects as a red zone threat, while also being a mismatch on linebackers up the seams. If Brandon Staley is the coach we all believe him to be, he’ll find a way to help Parham reach his potential.

Lastly, I cannot stress enough how absolutely sick this touchdown was.

Free Agent(s): Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Stephen Anderson, Matt Sokol

Now here’s where things get interesting.

Henry was not tagged by the Chargers which means he’s on his way to becoming a free agent in less than a week’s time. The time is still there for the team and Henry to get a long-term deal done, but if it was anywhere close to being done already, why wouldn’t they have tagged him just to keep him away from other suitors in the meantime? That makes me believe he’s actually going to hit the market.

Henry is a tough case to figure out at the moment. He’s a fan-favorite and obviously a very talented player when healthy, but there’s the catch. The sixth-year pro has yet to stay healthy for an entire 16-game season and even thought he started a career-high 14 games in 2020, his numbers didn’t exactly pop off like we’d all expected. He did finish with a career high in receptions (60), but his 613 yards were the second-most of his career and his four touchdowns tied a career-low.

Justin Herbert ended up being equally-effective throwing it to anyone who lined up around him. This doesn’t help Henry’s case that he’s deserving of a contract anywhere near the likes of Travis Kelce or George Kittle. Both of those players have broken NFL record at the position. In an offseason where the Chargers are attempting to capitalize on Herbert’s rookie contract while navigating through a shrinking salary cap, can they afford to give Henry the money he believes he deserves?

Green signed with the Chargers prior to the 2018 season and has since been a rock steady backup with his run-blocking ability and his ability to contribute in the passing game, whenever he’s actually targeted. As the starter in 2018, he caught 19 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. Since, he’s managed just 12 catches for 128 yards and another two scores. Green’s season-ending injury was actually bittersweet because although he lost most of his season, he made a sweet touchdown catch over the head of a Jaguars defender so at least he went out on top.

While he’s been a big contributor to this team over the last three seasons, I don’t see the team re-signing the 32 year old this offseason.

Anderson was one of my favorite players to watch this past season on the entire team due to his high effort put forth on every snap, regardless if he had a chance of getting the ball or not. As a run blocker, Anderson was used out on the edge to capitalize on his athleticism in space. As a pass-catcher (eight catches, 106 yards), he turned into a wrecking ball the second he secured the pass, racking up some very entertaining YAC. Anderson is the type of “move” tight end that I think the modern NFL loves. If he can be signed as a depth piece, I’ll be over the moon.

Lastly, Sokol was a originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Chargers in 2019. After spending part of that season with the Bolts and Jaguars, he began the 2020 campaign with the Lions before making his way to Los Angeles once more. Sokol saw no meaningful playing and stay mainly on the practice squad. He’ll likely play elsewhere in 2021.