The Los Angeles Chargers have all but ensured that they are done adding players to their tight-end room. The team announced on Wednesday that they re-signed veteran tight end Jeff Cumberland to a one-year deal.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed at the time this article was published.
This transaction gives the Chargers six tight ends as the roster sits now, as Cumberland will rejoin familiar faces like Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry, while also reuniting with Sean McGrath, Asante Cleveland and Jake McGee — McGee is the only tight end of the group to not be activated at some point during the 2016 season.
Cumberland, 29, spent six years with the New York Jets before signing with the Bolts during the 2016 offseason. The eight-year veteran tore his Achilles during the preseason shortly after signing with the club, missing all of the regular season.
Though both Gates and Henry remain an impressive two-headed monster as the team’s starters, Cumberland provides a steady option as a reserve at the position. The next regular-season reception Cumberland snags with the Chargers will be his first, but the vet has hauled in 86 passes for 1,119 yards and 10 touchdowns over his career.
The best piece of advice I can give a sports fan is this: cheer for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back.
No matter how wonderful a player is on or off the field, someday either the team or the player will make the difficult decision to go a different direction. The team remains, but the players go through the never ending revolving doors known as free agency and retirement. Remember the aforementioned advise when you look at the following list of fan favorites and impact players who are on the last year of their contracts with the Chargers. Here is the list of the players who may leave at seasons end. The departure of some will leave a hole in the team. The departure of others will leave a hole in fans hearts. So as I crank up The Clash in the background, let’s take a look at who should stay and who should go, as well as what they are making for the 2016 season.
Melvin Ingram (OLB) $7.751 million: Staying: Although Ingram has had to deal with injuries and has under achieved in a statistical way, the future of Ingram seems bright. The addition of Joey Bosa has made this pair of pass-rushers quite a handful for offensive lines. The sack totals are not as impressive as their AFC West rivals, but the fact that the Chargers lead the league in interceptions is a sure sign that these guys are putting pressure on quarterbacks and forcing errant throws. For a defensive front seven to be effective in today’s NFL, there must be two dominant pass rushers and a strong Nose Tackle. Ingram, Bosa and Mebane fit the bill for now. Ingram will be pursued by other teams, but expect the Chargers to overpay a little to keep their former first round draft pick around for the next three to four years.
Danny Woodhead (RB) $5.5 million: Going: I want to be clear about something here. Danny Woodhead is a wonderful player who can be a spark-plug for an offense, and a true leader. But along with his greatness is a serious problem. Since joining the Chargers, Woodhead has only played in 37 of the 64 games he was eligible to participate in. He has had two full seasons and two cut seriously short by injury, including the 2016 campaign. Not only does Woodhead have a hard time staying healthy, he is 31 years old. Not many running backs maintain their effectiveness for long after age 30. I’m sorry to say, the Chargers will move on from Woodhead. He will either sign somewhere as a free agent for the 2017 season, or hang up the cleats. Of course, there is the possibility that the Chargers would try to sign him at a discounted price on the chance that he will stay healthy. Unfortunately, he will most likely find a better offer somewhere else.
Mantai Te’o (MLB) $5.172 million: Going: Te’o is another player who has been plagued by injuries during his time in San Diego. By seasons end, he will have played in just 38 of a possible 64 games, over his four season tenure with the Bolts. He has been improving every year, and the improvement of the defensive line has helped him scrape down the line and get to ball carriers. But, it hasn’t helped his foot-speed, or ability to cover backs in the flat. Look for opposing quarterbacks to pick on Te’o on third and long. The fact is, Te’o will go down in Chargers history as a borderline bust. Nice enough guy, just not a great football player.
Jahleel Addae (SS) $2.553 million: Going: Chargers fans seem to have a great deal of respect and admiration for SS Jahleel Addae. Why? Because he is a hitter! Fans love players who come in and lay some hat on opposing teams. Addae certainly does just that. He has been a Charger for four years and has quite the reputation for having no fear. The problem is that all those hits have really taken a toll on Addae’s body. In fact, he has had several injuries, including concussions. Having only played 43 of his possible 54 games so far as a Charger, there must be concern that he will spend more and more time on the injured list. He is fairly inexpensive, but you do not want to pay anyone to ride out injuries. I believe that if Addae fails to get through the remaining five games of the 2016 schedule without incident, the Chargers will have no choice but to let him go.
Branden Oliver (RB) $1.53 million: Staying: Normally I would have said that a player who really hasn’t done very much, and has missed an entire season to injury, would not be returning. In Oliver’s case, I think the Chargers may take one more chance. He is the epitome of a fan favorite. Bolt fans just love watching Oliver run/return the ball and bang into those large defenders. Yes, Oliver plays larger than his 5’8″, 208 lb frame. He is such a fan favorite, some fans wanted Melvin Gordon either cut, or dropped to second string, so that Oliver could get his chance. The fact of the matter is that despite a few impressive games, Oliver does not have the stats to explain the love he receives. That being said, the Bolts may just bring him back because he will be cheap and the fans love him.
Korey Toomer (OLB) $600,000: Staying: It could be a little premature to add Toomer to this list, but he has been an impact player since joining the team in week four. With his playing time increasing, Toomer has racked up 33 tackles in the last three weeks! He is an aggressive player who likes to hit. The Seahawks and the Raiders are going to regret letting this guy go. Look for Toomer to get another two the three years added to his already very affordable contract.
Dontrelle Inman (WR) $600,000: Staying: Without a whole lot of playing time, Inman has managed to have some big games. He is a sure-handed receiver that was plucked from the Canadian Football League to fill in for injured receivers. Although much of the success of the young Chargers receivers can be credited to Philip Rivers, there is no denying that Inman has the ability to get open and catch the ball. He just may be part of a talented youth movement at wide receiver in San Diego.
There are many more players to make decisions on at the end of this season. Very few are notable. None are tremendous impact players or former high draft picks. Even though these names seem less important, some of them will return because they are affordable and they add much needed depth. The following is a list of players who will most likely be brought back to fill various roles: Mike Windt (LS), Tenny Palepoi (NT), Sean McGrath (TE), Damion Square (NT), and Isaiah Burse (WR/KR), Kenny Wiggens (G).
Finally, the list of potential free agents who are either doomed to be shown the door, or will fight hard and get back on the team: Sean Lissemore (NT), Tourek Williams (OLB), Trevor Williams (CB), Asante Cleveland (TE), Adrian Phillips (FS), Kellen Clemens (QB), Javontee Herndon (WR), Codero Law (OLB), Jeff Cumberland (TE), Dexter McCluster (RB/KR), Ronnie Hillman (RB), Jeremy Butler (WR), Geremy Davis (WR), Tyreek Burwell (T), Chris Landrum (OLB). Some of these guys have a real shot at making the team next year, they just will not be high priorities for Chargers GM Tom Telesco.
So, what do you think? Which of these guys will be sporting lightning bolts next season? Leave your comments below.
Let us flashback to the start of the 2015 season.
I cannot imagine this is how tight end Antonio Gates would have envisioned his last two seasons.
During the 2015 offseason, the Chargers were informed by the league that Antonio Gates would receive a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, forcing him to miss the first quarter of the 2015 campaign.
Despite missing the first four contests of ’15, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer posted 56 receptions for 630 yards and five touchdowns.
Fast forward to this season.
Gates has missed the last two weeks due to a hamstring injury.
Prior to the Week 3 game against the Colts, Michael Gehlken of The San Diego Union-Tribune tweeted this out:
Antonio Gates (hamstring) inactive vs. Colts. No lock for Week 4. either. Wasn’t close to playing. Hunter Henry about to be a busy man.
— Michael Gehlken (@sdutGehlken) September 25, 2016
Wasn’t close to playing?
From what I was told prior to the Chargers-Colts game, the Gates’ injury was minor and not something that would keep him out an extended amount of time, but that he would miss the Week 3 contest.
Though missing two games is not the end of the world, so to speak, the missed time does allow one to speculate regarding the severity of the injury to the former Kent State hoops star.
To say that his first two weeks of play in 2016 were underwhelming is a bit of an understatement. Gates has a meager six receptions for 35 yards and one receiving touchdown.
Clearly these are not the numbers one would hope for from a player the caliber of Gates.
Sure, he is not getting any younger, but the mental bond/rapport that he has built with Philip Rivers is good for better stats than an eight-yard long reception through two games.
Second-round draft pick Hunter Henry has filled in admirably for the missing Gates. Although his fumble in the waning moments of the loss to the Colts sealed the victory for the home team, Henry has put up solid numbers, scoring his first NFL touchdown in Week 4 against the Saints.
One area of Henry’s game that stands out to me is his ability to block in the running game.
It may be fair to say that he is already a better blocker than the man he was drafted to eventually replace.
Henry has been impressive through his first four games in the NFL, hauling in 10 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown. Looking at his stats is a bit misleading, in that he didn’t have a catch in the Week 2 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, but his blocking in the running game aided in the team rushing for 150 yards.
Perhaps, due to the ability and confidence of Henry, the Chargers won’t try to rush back the veteran Gates, allowing him to heal fully and then some. Hamstring injuries can be tricky, and there is no sense in rushing Gates back in what could be his final year in the NFL.
Take your time, big fella. When you do return, make it well worth the wait.
Dave Booga Peters
In less than 24 hours the 2016 San Diego Chargers will take the field for training camp. Bringing you continual coverage of the names in the program we don’t know, today, I focus my player spotlight on tight end prospect Matt Weiser.
Weiser signed with San Diego as an undrafted free agent the day after the 2016 NFL Draft. He played for the Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-American Conference (MAC). Listed at 6’5″, 241-pounds, Weiser is the ideal size preferred for a San Diego Chargers tight end. He comes in on the heels of a breakout senior year in which he posted a school-record for catches and receiving yards by a tight end. He was also a Coaches’ selection to the All-MAC Conference First Team in 2015.
Weiser lit up the MAC with 63 catches for 625 yards and three touchdowns in 2015. For his career, he logged 92 catches for 1,080 yards and eight touchdowns. Weiser concluded the 2015 NCAA season with the fourth-highest receiving grade among tight ends.
At the Buffalo Pro Day, Weiser ran the 40-yard dash in 4.80-seconds, posted 18 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press, a 30-inch vertical jump and broad jumped nine feet, six inches. Watching the video below, it’s easy to see what the Chargers’ war room saw in the young prospect. He has performed well against big name opponents and was versatile enough to play both sides of the ball.
The competition at tight end will be fierce in training camp. Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry are already slotted in as the top-two tight ends on the depth chart. After that, there is a logjam for the third tight end slot. Also in the mix with Weiser are veterans Asante Cleveland, Jeff Cumberland, Sean McGrath and fellow undrafted free agent rookie Tim Semisch.
Not everyone will make the cut. One more name can be expected to make the 53-man roster and a couple others will be moved to the practice squad. A couple others will play in a different uniform. One thing for certain, the race to be the heir apparent to the Hall-of-Fame bound Gates is on and it will be one of the most intriguing position battles to watch as training camp is set to open Saturday.
Weiser will be catching passes wearing number 46. Follow him on Twitter: @mweiser89.
Good luck, Mr. Weiser.
The Greg One
The San Diego Chargers secured the future of the tight end position with their selection of Arkansas Razorbacks All-American, John Mackey Award-winning stud Hunter Henry in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Henry is tabbed as the heir apparent to Hall-of-Fame bound Antonio Gates. As we all know, injuries are a very real thing in pro football. The Chargers have been decimated by injuries season after season. Unfortunately, not all high draft picks pan out.
One can never be too prepared.
With the first two slots on the depth chart filled, the challenge of finding a solid third tight end will be an interesting camp battle to watch. Stepping up to the challenge are:
1. Asante Cleveland, a second-year pro out of the University of Miami.
2. Jeff Cumberland, a seventh-year pro who spent his first six seasons with the New York Jets.
3. Sean McGrath, a second-year pro out of Henderson State.
4. Matt Weiser, an undrafted free agent rookie out of the University of Buffalo.
One of the biggest long shots in the field is literally the biggest of the entire group. While the aforementioned four players all average a stout 6’5″, 250-pounds, Tim Semisch stands 6’8″, 267-pounds.
Semischs’ pro career began with the Miami Dolphins where he was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015. After toiling away on the Dolphins’ practice squad he was released in November and signed to the Chargers’ practice squad in December.
Semisch signed a futures contract in January 2016 and will be competing for a spot on the 53-man roster. Semisch played his college ball at Northern Illinois University. While he’s not fast (ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 at NIU’s pro day), his height, length and versatility will be features that make him a viable candidate as a possible third tight end or special teams.
In a pre-draft interview, Semisch explained that at NIU he was able to take advantage of his size advantage, be a good pass catcher or blocker, can rush the passer if needed and he also became a good long snapper. He stated his desire to play wherever is necessary to make the team.
While he was used primarily as a blocker he did show the ability to make big plays in the passing game, as evidenced in the video clip below. In three seasons he caught a grand total of ten passes for 84 yards and a touchdown. If he makes the 53-man roster with Rivers throwing him the ball, he’s likely to eclipse those numbers in one game.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TDSemisch82
Here’s to rooting for the underdog and unearthing more diamonds in the rough! Good luck Mr. Semisch.
The Greg One
Excitement and enthusiasm is in the air for the 2016-2017 edition of the San Diego Chargers. At this time in the offseason, it’s in the air for the fans of the other 31 NFL teams as well. With the free agency, NFL Draft period over and what looks to be a loaded 90-man roster in place, hope for a successful season is renewed.
Time to take off the rose-colored glasses for a moment and look at the team from an analytics standpoint. The Chargers do look like they have helped themselves immensely this offseason. To take a closer look I am going to dissect the offense and assign each aspect of the offense a point value. These will be the points I expect that aspect of the offense to generate every game. Of course that number is subject to change based on injuries, offseason acquisitions etc…
The points will then be added and that will be the expected points-per-game expectation for the offense. Some of you will think I’ve graded too harshly while others will think not harshly enough but it’s a jumping off point and that’s the objective. I’ll be looking forward to reading your views in the comments below.
The offense begins and ends with Philip Rivers. The Chargers’ iron man, Rivers has not missed a single game in ten seasons. His streak is second-longest in the NFL behind Eli Manning of the New York Giants (183). Rivers only trails Manning because Rivers didn’t start until his third season while Manning started in his rookie year.
Over the last three seasons, Rivers has averaged a stat line of 398-591 for 4,518 yards passing with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and two fumbles lost. What’s more, he has averaged 56 passes of 20-yards or more and slightly over seven completions of 40-yards or more. This impressive stat line comes despite woeful offensive line play that has him getting sacked an average of 35 times over that same three-season period.
Last season, Rivers threw for career-highs in attempts (661), completions (437) and yards (4,792). The running game was non-existent and the Chargers went through 25 offensive line changes. The weight of being the only reliable offensive option took its toll on Rivers and the Bolts record. This year, a more balanced offense will yield better results on the scoreboard and in the standings.
Points-per-game expectation: 14
Running backs and fullbacks
Franchise running back Melvin Gordon had a disappointing rookie season. The Chargers, the fans and Gordon himself expected better than the 184 carries for 641 yards he accumulated in 14 games. Gordon is still awaiting his first NFL regular season touchdown and needs to improve his ball security. Four of Gordons’ six fumbles were recovered by the defense.
Danny Woodhead was the most consistent running back and the leading receiver for the Chargers last season. Woodhead had 98 carries for 336 yards and three touchdowns. Receiving, Woodhead amassed 80 receptions for 755 yards with six touchdowns. Take away the 2014 season in which Woodhead missed all but three games with a broken leg; in 2013 and 2015 Woodhead has averaged 382 yards and 2.5 touchdowns on 102 rushing attempts and 680 yards and six touchdowns on 78 receptions.
Branden Oliver was rarely seen in 2015 but showed his worth in 2014 after the injury to Woodhead where he emerged to lead the Chargers in rushing in 2014 as a rookie. Last season he had 31 attempts for 108 yards rushing at 13 receptions for 112 yards receiving. The coaching staff has expressed their desire to add Oliver in the mix in 2016 which is an intriguing prospect. Time will tell.
In the sixth round San Diego selected Wisconsin fullback Derek Watt. The significance of this selection is Watt was Gordons’ blocking fullback each of his three seasons at Wisconsin. It’s reasonable to expect the two already have a chemistry and understanding of one another that will translate to the field.
The new rule that chop blocks will not be allowed on the line of scrimmage will make having a good fullback on the field more important. This will also slowly bring about the re-emergence of Power-I formations. Not coincidentally, the Power-I is the formation Watt and Gordon ran to NCAA record-smashing success. There is change brewing in the run game and it will only help the offense as a whole.
Points per-game expectation: 6
At 36 years young, Hall of Fame bound Antonio Gates enters his 14th NFL season after re-signing with the Bolts for two more seasons. The eight-time Pro Bowler began the 2015 season on the suspended list, missing four games for taking a banned substance. He played well in the eleven games he saw the field afterward, tallying 56 catches for 630 yards and five touchdowns. Gates contemplated retirement before the end of last season but after the Chargers dismal season, Gates opted to return. He told the media “I didn’t want to go out like that.”
Gates finds himself on the precipice of NFL history this season. With eight touchdowns, Gates (104) will surpass Tony Gonzalez (111) into first place for touchdowns scored by a tight end. Over his brilliant career, Gates averages eight touchdowns a season. He is the most reliable part of the passing game. Starting the season from week one, expecting a better statistical season than 2015 is almost a certainty as long as he stays healthy.
The Chargers did draft the heir apparent to Gates when they drafted Hunter Henry our of Arkansas with their second round pick. The 6’5″, 250-pounder was a first-team All-SEC selection and winner of the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end in 2015. Henry collected 51 passes for 739 yards and three touchdowns. As sure-handed as they come, Henry did not drop a single pass last season.
Vying for a slot on the roster are Sean McGrath, Asante Cleveland, Jeff Cumberland, and undrafted free agent Matt Weiser. All fit the mold the Chargers like at standing 6’5″, 260-pounds. The most intriguing prospect may be Tim Semisch, a one-year pro who stands an imposing 6’8″, 267.
Points per-game expectation: 4
Come back tomorrow for part two of my breakdown including the wide receivers, offensive line, coaching staff and final summary. I hope you have enjoyed my analytical breakdown. Do you agree or disagree so far? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
The Greg One
After watching tight end Ladarius Green leave via free agency to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chargers were thin when it comes to quality bodies at the position.
Although they have first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Antonio Gates, unknown commodities like Asante Cleveland, Sean McGrath and Tim Semisch round out the depth chart.
That was until Monday.
The team announced that it has signed former New York Jet Jeff Cumberland.
Entering his seventh NFL season, Cumberland began 2015 as the Jets’ starting tight end. As the season progressed, the 28-year-old was relegated to the bench.
Although the six-year veteran is not an overwhelming force as a receiver, he has managed to haul in 86 receptions for 1,119 yards and 10 touchdowns since coming into the league in 2010.
Despite the signing of Cumberland, the Bolts may not be done adding to the tight end group. It should not surprise anyone if the team looks to select a player to add to the position in the upcoming draft.
Though the tight end draft class leaves a lot to be desired in the form of an instant-impact player, there are some players who could learn a lot from a player the caliber of Gates.
Cumberland currently looks to be the club’s second-string option for the time being.
In what has been a common theme throughout the 2015 season, the Chargers made a couple of moves on Tuesday.
The team announced that they have signed tight end Sean McGrath, formerly of the Chiefs, Seahawks and Colts.
McGrath, 27, has recorded 26 receptions for 302 yards and two touchdowns. He hasn’t seen regular-season action since 2013, starting nine of the 16 games he played in for the Kansas City Chiefs.
To make room for McGrath on the roster, the Bolts waived offensive lineman Craig Watts.
Watts was recently promoted from the practice squad to the team’s 53-man roster when interior lineman Chris Watt was placed on season-ending injured-reserve with a shoulder injury.
If Watts is to clear waivers, expect the team to sign him back to their practice squad.