It’s the end of an era for the Los Angeles Chargers tight end.
It’s hard to imagine Philip Rivers dropping back to pass without having Antonio Gates available as his security blanket. Unfortunately for Los Angeles Chargers fans, it looks like that’s just what will happen in Los Angeles next season.
ESPN reporter Adam Schefter is reporting that the franchise has already informed the record-setting tight end that they won’t be bringing him back this season. The team will likely look to trade him for a late round pick during this week’s NFL Draft in an effort to avoid outright releasing him.
It’s an understandable decision from the Chargers perspective. Gates has done yeoman’s work for the franchise but his production took a significant dip last season. He only managed 30 receptions despite being healthy enough to play in 16 games. That represents the lowest catch total since his rookie season of 2003.
It’s still going to be an emotional blow for a franchise that’s still working hard to make real inroads in their new market. Perhaps part of the team’s thinking is that releasing Gates now would allow them to increase their transition to a “new era” of Chargers football. If they were really committed to that idea they could have drafted a new quarterback yesterday, but Rivers is still too productive to throw by the wayside.
It will be very interesting to see whether or not Gates finds significant interest either via trade or as a free agent. I’ll be a little surprised if the Chargers are able to find a taker for his contract. The most likely outcome will be to see the former Kent State basketball star hit the open market after the Draft.
If that happens, expect for several contenders to kick the tires on signing him. He could turn into an excellent bargain if he’s willing to accept an incentive-laden deal. It’s even possible a chance of scenery could reinvigorate him to the point where he could play another couple of productive seasons for his new franchise.