It seems like we’ve waited all summer for the Los Angeles Chargers to sign a tight end.
The moment Hunter Henry went down, Chargers fans were expecting Antonio Gates, who many feel was unceremoniously dumped, to be back. At the very least, maybe the team would bring in a guy like Brent Celek, Marcedes Lewis or Julius Thomas.
Now, those same fans may be happy the team never brought in any of those three guys, but would they be any worse than what the team has? Sean Culkin has chipped in a bit, but the rest of the group has literally done nothing.
And let’s drop any notion that Virgil Green, who is an excellent blocking tight end, is ever going to become a major part of any team’s passing game.
So why hasn’t Gates been brought back? This is a question we’ve asked for months now, but the answer might just be the ability of big No. 81, Mike Williams.
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Last year’s first-round pick has provided the kind of target the team hoped he would. An athletic, big-bodied receiver is one that Philip Rivers should have no trouble finding in the red zone, the area where Gates was particularly dangerous.
Gates is one of the best players in franchise history without any doubt, but at 38 years old, it’s just as easy to make a case against the team signing him as it is to make one in favor of that move. That’s why it hasn’t happened yet.
Tom Telesco and the coaching staff have seen that the team is not getting much out of the tight end position in the passing game. At most, a guy like Culkin will serve as an occasional safety valve this season.
But in Williams, the team has seen enough progress to be confident that they have a player who can create huge mismatches on defense and provide a viable threat in clutch situations. In other words, the exact role that made Gates a household name.
The Chargers haven’t passed on signing a receiving tight end because they’re having trouble finding the right guy or working the right deal. Instead, they’ve made the decision that they might just be alright without one.