Hunter Henry is the biggest free agent for the LA Chargers this offseason and on Tuesday we got our first answer on how the team is going to handle him being a free agent.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Chargers informed Henry that they would not be franchise tagging him for a second consecutive season. Another franchise tag would have paid him just under $13 million for the 2021 season.
The first step of the process is now out of the way and Henry has become an unrestricted free agent. The two sides can still work out a deal but now Henry is free to negotiate with any team in the league.
While I personally thought that the LA Chargers were going to franchise tag Henry, Tom Telesco did the smart thing in not offering the tag for a second straight year. It has nothing to do with saving the tag for someone else, either, as no other free agent on the Chargers is worth that much of a guaranteed salary.
Michael Davis is arguably the most important free agent for the Bolts this offseason and his salary ceiling should be around $7 million in 2021, far under what a franchise tag would pay him.
Why the LA Chargers were right to not franchise tag Hunter Henry:
Money is a factor here. While the LA Chargers may end up paying Henry more in an extension, they can lower the cap hit this season to help bring in other talent as well. While I do not think his salary will be that much lower than what the franchise tag would have been, the Bolts can get creative with the signing bonus to shave some money off the cap.
But it is about more than just the money.
Simply put, as Bolt Beat’s own Alex Insdorf put it in our Slack channel, now is the time. The two sides either get a deal done this offseason or they don’t. There is no reason to prolong the situation another year and have this same problem next offseason.
This allows the team to prepare any plan B options this offseason and locks Henry up at the ideal time. Henry is entering his age 27 season, which if you compare to tight ends like Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and Darren Waller, is typically when a tight end hits his prime.
The Chargers can lock him down for four years and ensure that his prime years are spent in Los Angeles. Tagging him this offseason would risk Henry raising his price even higher with a better 2021 season and thus losing those prime years. It would also extend the age in which he played for the Chargers, creating a bigger risk of regression in the last year of his deal.
The LA Chargers do not have a ton of cap space, but they certainly have enough to work out a deal with Hunter Henry and if the team believes that his connection with Justin Herbert is that important then they absolutely should work out a deal.
If there are any doubts about his mobility and how easily replaceable he might be then it makes sense to cut the cord now rather than draw out the process another season.