Chargers and premier tight end Hunter Henry hope to reach long-term deal soon
As the Chargers prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 6 of 10: Tight ends.
Hunter Henry wants to be a Charger long term, and the Chargers share that sentiment. Now, if the two sides could only agree on a contract.
The tight end signed his franchise tag this week, tying him to the Chargers for the 2020 season at $10.6 million. That’s the highest annual average at the position in the NFL but still a palatable sum given Henry’s importance to the offense.
The expectation remains that he’ll eventually sign a multi-year deal; the current negotiating window closes July 15. Until an extension is in place, nothing is guaranteed for Henry beyond this year.
He’s coming off a season in which he caught 55 passes for 652 yards and five touchdowns despite missing four games because of injury.
The Chargers’ kicking game, spearheaded by Michael Badgley, showed its usefulness last season, but there are areas for improvement on special teams.
His production at times faded as quarterback Philip Rivers looked elsewhere in the passing game.
With Rivers now gone to Indianapolis, the Chargers will be transitioning at the position. Veteran Tyrod Taylor is expected to take over as the Week 1 starter, with perhaps someone unproven at the NFL level as his backup.
Henry could prove to be a vital piece to Taylor as he rediscovers his game legs after spending most of the past two seasons as a reserve. Taylor has thrown only seven passes going back to Week 4 of 2018.
For a tight end who is a prime receiving threat, Henry takes pride in his ability to block in the run game, something that traces to his college days at Arkansas.
The Chargers have a solid No. 2 tight end in Virgil Green, who is entering his 10th NFL season.
Green is not a receiving weapon, but he is a respected professional who can bring a calming presence to the huddle and help pave the way for No. 1 back Austin Ekeler.
Antonio Gates, who holds the record for touchdown catches by a tight end with 116, retired in January after 16 seasons with the Chargers, although he did not play in 2019.
Nose tackle Linval Joseph signed with the Chargers in March to combine with defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and pressure quarterbacks.
Under contract for 2020: Henry ($10.6 million), Green ($3.5 million), Stephen Anderson ($750,000), Andrew Vollert ($610,000), Donald Parham.
Free agents: The Chargers on Tuesday announced the signing of Parham, a 6-foot-8, 237-pound tight end who most recently played for Dallas in the XFL. He played collegiately at Stetson and has spent time with Detroit and Washington but has not appeared in an NFL game.
Draft: This is one position where the Chargers could look to add depth, most likely in a later round. Henry is currently unsigned beyond 2020, and Green is entering the final season of the three-year deal he signed in 2018.
Roster decisions: The Chargers appear to be set atop the depth chart with Henry and Green. But at least another tight end will be needed, particularly one who could contribute on special teams.
NEXT: Offensive line.
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