Antonio Gates returns to Chargers on 1-year deal

ByEric Williams ESPN logo
Sunday, September 2, 2018

Antonio Gates and the Los Angeles Chargers have agreed to a one-year deal that brings back the tight end for a 16th season.

The Chargers announced the move Sunday.They have yet to announce a corresponding move to make room for Gates on the 53-man roster.

The veteran tight end became a free agent in March, and the team notified Gates' representation that the Chargers would not seek to re-sign him.

However, the Chargers lost starting tight end Hunter Henry for the year when he suffered a right ACL injury on the first day of organized team activities in May. He had 45 catches for 579 yards and four touchdowns last season, but he was placed on the physically unable to perform list with hopes that he won't miss the entire season.

Free-agent addition Virgil Green was the only tight end on the roster with a catch in the NFL before the team signed Gates.

The Chargers had only two tight ends on their initial 53-man roster Saturday in Green and Sean Culkin.

Although he turned 38 years old in June, Gates can still be an effective player for the Chargers if used in a limited capacity.

After Henry suffered a lacerated kidney that forced him to miss the final two games of last year, Gates finished with 10 catches for 127 receiving yards and a touchdown in the last two games as the Chargers' starting tight end.

Gates served as a captain on offense and remains a popular player and mentor for younger players like Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon and Henry.

Gates also brings familiarity to the Chargers' offensive scheme and for quarterback Philip Rivers.

"I'm excited to have him back; it should be pretty easy for he and I to get on the same page. I just couldn't picture him ever wearing another uniform," Rivers told the team's website.

A future Hall of Famer, Gates had a reduced role with the Chargers in 2017. He played 478 snaps, finishing with 30 catches for 316 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Gates hasn't had numbers that low since his rookie season in 2003.

Gates is the all-time leader in receiving touchdowns by an NFL tight end (114). Gates and Rivershave connected on 87 touchdown passes during their time with the Chargers, the most in league history for a quarterback/tight end tandem.

An eight-time Pro Bowl selection who signed as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State in 2003, Gates is the franchise leader in receptions (927), receiving yards (11,508) and touchdowns (114).

Gates posted 100-plus receiving yards in 21 games throughout his career, becoming one of just seven tight ends in NFL history with at least 20 such games.

The Chargers are 52-38 in games in which Gates scored at least one touchdown.