Philip Rivers wouldn’t mind having his buddy back on the team.
Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates have a special bond.
The two have played together (starting) since 2006, and they’ve had incredible chemistry since day one. Rivers and Gates have connected for 87 touchdowns, which is the most in NFL history for a quarterback-tight end tandem, per ESPN’s Eric D. Williams.
They also made more history together last season. Gates became the league’s all-time touchdown leader at tight end after catching a seven-yard TD pass from Rivers in Week 2’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. What a moment that was. Overall, Gates has a career 114 receiving touchdowns, which ranks sixth among ALL players.
Gates is currently an unrestricted free agent after the Chargers opted not to re-sign him in the offseason. 2016 second-round pick Hunter Henry was finally going to be “the guy,” but he suffered a torn ACL on the first day of OTAs and will now miss the entire 2018 season.
Should the Chargers consider bringing back Gates? Rivers thinks it’d be a good idea.
According to Jack Wang of the Orange County Register, Rivers said he’d be excited if Gates were to return, and that “it would get my vote.”
The soon-to-be 38-year-old is coming off one of the worst statistical seasons as a pro. He finished the 2017 season catching 30 passes for 316 receiving yards and three touchdowns, which were the lowest totals since his rookie year (2003). However, he might be the best option to replace Henry. The most experienced tight end on the current roster is former Bronco Virgil Green, who signed a three-year deal with the Bolts this offseason, but he’s more of a run blocker than a receiving threat.
Gates is no longer the Pro Bowl-caliber player he once was, but that’s fine because he doesn’t have to be the featured offensive playmaker he was used to being now that receiver Keenan Allen and running back Melvin Gordon are on the team. But the Chargers need a pass-catching tight end, and Gates might be the team’s best bet (Julius Thomas is another option). After seeing what he did in the final two games of last season, Gates can still make an impact, especially in the red zone.
Like Rivers, I’m all for bringing back Gates.