The Chargers have enjoyed a fairly long stretch of being blessed at the tight end position. After employing one of the greatest tight ends of all time in Kellen Winslow during most of the ‘80s, it was only 15 years later that they landed yet another tight end in Antonio Gates who will inevitably end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame once his time comes.
Heck, and even before Gates’ time was up in the NFL, the Chargers also drafted Hunter Henry who sure looked like the next great tight end for the franchise. However, his time in Los Angeles ended up being a bit shorter than most expected.
Overall, that’s 26 years in a 42-year span of employing one of the best players at that position.
Coinciding with the second retirement of Rob Gronkowski, Cody Benjamin and Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports put together their cumulative list of the top 10 tight ends in NFL history and you can bet the farm the aforementioned pair of former Bolts made the list.
First, the NFL’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions at the position came in at number four. Here’s what they had to say:
“You can make the case that (Gates) should be higher. While the eight-time Pro Bowler didn’t necessarily revolutionize the position or serve as an absolute matchup nightmare a la Gronk, he was about as consistent as they come. Absent for just 20 games in 16 years, the former basketball player was the safety valve in the Chargers’ offense for almost the entirety of his career, hauling in at least 60 passes nine different times and leading all NFL tight ends with 116 career touchdown catches.”
this might be the last time we see this matchup unless the chiefs are able to advance past the wildcard so here's antonio gates vs. eric berry over the years. pic.twitter.com/QlpwMpzIuN— KP (@KP_Show) December 13, 2018
You won’t end up having to scroll much further to find the next Chargers legend as Winslow immediately follows at number three:
“If Gronk redefined the TE position for his generation, then Winslow defined it for his. While most players at his position were used as extra blockers, he exploded as a true deep threat for Chargers Hall of Famer Dan Fouts and produced numbers that, at the time, were unprecedented for TEs. Once called a “wide receiver in an offensive lineman’s body,” he played even fewer games than Gronk but started 94 of his 109 outings, logging three 1,000-yard seasons in a time when passing was far from what it is today.”
As of right now, the Chargers are on the cusp of what may be considered a slump at the position. After letting Henry walk in free agency a year ago, the team signed veteran Jared Cook to be their bridge tight end but that only lasted one season. They signed Gerald Everett this offseason to lead the young group but it remains to be seen if he can take his game to the next level. In the end, it’ll be up to Brandon Staley and his coaching staff to see if they can unlock the high upside we’ve all seen flashed by Everett over the past few seasons.