LA Chargers: Hunter Henry shouldn’t be extended

The LA Chargers aren’t likely to reach a contract extension with Hunter Henry prior to the franchise tag deadline. As of now, they shouldn’t extend him past 2020.

It’s looking more and more likely LA Chargers tight end Hunter Henry will play 2020 on the franchise tag, as not much progress has been made on a deal heading into the 4 p.m. ET deadline. While some fans may want a deal with the starting tight end in place, this is the right move for the LA Chargers right now.

If Henry wants a long-term contract, he has to prove his ability to stay on the field. I don’t necessarily believe in the idea of certain players being injury-prone in football, as it’s a physical sport. It’s OK for Henry to miss some games. Missing between four and 16 games every year becomes an untenable situation if you’re going to pay Henry a four- to a five-year deal in excess of $10 million per season, though.

There’s no doubt Henry is a solid tight end when it comes to receiving. Where Henry has really struggled in recent years has been blocking. In 2019, he scored a 56.8 as a run blocker and a 56.5 as a pass blocker, according to Pro Football Focus. It goes without saying both of those scores are well below the league average. Some of his blocking issues can be attributed to his ACL injury, but he wasn’t exactly a great blocker prior to that point.

The salary cap is also a huge piece of the discussion when it comes to extending any of the Chargers’ contracts that are up in 2021. No one has any idea what exactly the cap situation will be in 2021, other than the likelihood it won’t go up. Some projections have the cap decreasing as much as 20 percent, too, although that’s anyone’s guess at this point.

Either way, the Chargers should wait on contract extensions for players who aren’t Joey Bosa and Keenan Allen.

The 2021 tight end class in the NFL Draft is also pretty solid. Brigham Young’s Matt Bushman would be an awesome player to acquire in the middle rounds. The Chargers could even go high and take someone like Miami’s Brevin Jordan or Florida Kyle Pitts. This isn’t to say Henry is easy to replace, but he’s easier to replace than some of the other Chargers’ free agents due to the position he plays. The frequent injuries also add to being replaceable.

Not extending Henry gives him the opportunity to play well on the franchise tag and earn a new deal. Earlier this week, Henry was quoted as saying, “To me, I have so much to prove. Honestly, everybody knows my history of injuries. Unfortunate injuries that have happened in my career and I feel like that has held me back a little bit sometimes. I’m just eager to kinda get through something that I haven’t been able to do for a full season.”

He’s self-aware to the perceptions of him being injury prone and has acknowledged that injuries have held him back. It’s not a bad thing for Henry to want to prove his value to the team, and it’s also not bad for the LA Chargers to want to sit back and watch how that plays out.

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Ultimately, it’s the right decision to not extend Henry as of now. His injuries are a big part of my hesitance to the Chargers giving him a deal. Good blocking also needs to become a more consistent part of his game. The LA Chargers also have the deep 2021 tight end class into account, as well as the potential salary cap downturn.

I’m very excited to watch Henry play on the franchise tag and hope he stays healthy to prove he can be a Charger for the long-term future.