Antonio Gates just can’t get away from the Chargers. Or is it the other way around?
The 37 year old Gates, (who will be 38 by seasons start), had been the ultimate safety net for quarterback Philip Rivers. For 15 NFL seasons, all played with the Chargers, the basketball player turned NFL tight-end amassed an astonishing 114 touchdowns and 11,508 yards on 927 catches. That absolutely screams consistency. Even last season while only starting 4 out of 16 games, Gates finished the season with 3 touchdowns and 316 yards on 30 catches. While it’s down from his 14/15 YPC in past years, 10 YPC isn’t bad for a man who’s older than some coaches.
Despite his only slight decline in production, the Chargers predictably decided to cut ties with the future Hall-of-Famer at the end of last season. They had been grooming up-and-coming 3rd year tight end Hunter Henry, who despite starting 3 times as many games as Gates, only finished with 1 more touchdown and 137 more yards. But this is just how things go in the NFL. Hunter is 14 years younger, and primed for a huge start to a great career in his own right. It was his turn.
“It would get my vote.”
– QB Philip Rivers on bringing his old partner back
Disaster strikes. Hunter Henry out for the season with a torn ACL. And no Antonio Gates on the roster.
While this is a terrible break for the 23 year old, I can’t help but think about the Chargers as an organization here. The last time they had tried to groom another TE to take over for Gates was a few years ago with Ladarius Green. With Green they had a mix of a player who was not only build like a tank, but could out-run the opposition defense after the catch. Just when you thought Gates’ time was up, down goes Green. After another stop in Pittsburgh to try and revive his career, he unfortunately hasn’t recovered.
So this seems to open up a crack for Antonio to fill. If he’s at all interested, that is. And who knows! To me it’s a no-brainer. You bring back a leader, a Hall-of-Famer, a guy who knows the playbook and has had thousands of yards of chemistry built up with your QB. If I’m the Chargers I’m already penning the deal.
The only thing holding this up is Gates’ teaming up with LeBron at Staples Centre in October to really round out his story-book career.