When Bolts fans found out that tight end Hunter Henry went down for the season during OTAs, many immediately began to call out for a return by Antonio Gates or a free-agent signing, but perhaps that’s not the right decision.
Gates has long been a serviceable option for the Los Angeles Chargers, but his recent departure left a lot on the plate of future starter Henry. After his injury, the Chargers are left with recently signed Virgil Green as the starter and Sean Culkin as the back up.
Although either could potentially serve as serviceable starters, perhaps the Chargers should look into converting sixth-round pick Dylan Cantrell into a tight end. While it may seem to be a bit of a stretch, there are some valid reasons why this could work well.
Reason 1: He has the size
Tight ends in the NFL are typically a bit bigger than your average receiver, especially due to their blocking abilities. At 6’3″ and 205 pounds, Cantrell could easily play the role of a lighter, speedy tight end in the league.
Although Cantrell may be a bit underweight for a tight end, this really only affects him in blocking, which will likely be relegated Green anyways.
Reason 2: The wide receiver group is too crowded
Although the Bolts’ depth at the position is not crazy, the Chargers have four potential starters at the position. With Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams as the starters, that barely leaves spot for speedster Travis Benjamin or last year’s first-round pick Mike Williams.
While it’s not to say that Cantrell could not compete with any of these players, it seems rather unlikely that he will be able to move much higher than a third-string receiver. Given that information, he could be more valuable at another position, and tight end would likely be the easiest transition for the rookie.
Reason 3: The other options aren’t great
Let’s face it, you can’t really expect to adequately replace a player like Henry at this point of the year, but there are decent options out there.
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The obvious choice is former Chargers great Gates, but due to his age, durability may be an issue for the Chargers. Green has shown to be a great blocker, however he cannot really be relied upon in the receiving game. Culkin has yet to prove himself, but the preseason could help him out.
In terms of free agency, the options are rather slim. The top tight ends available are currently Julius Thomas and Coby Fleener, both players who are past their prime and would cost significantly more than the Chargers are likely willing to pay, especially considering their recent signing of Green.
While the Chargers may utilize four-wide receiver sets more often next season due to the loss of Henry, I firmly believe Cantrell should be considered for the role. Obviously, there is a lot that he would have to adjust to and learn in order to fulfill that new role, but I think that it’s worth a shot.
Do you think Cantrell should be considered at tight end? Why or why not? Let us know in the comment section.