Woo Pig Sooie
Will the 2016 campaign be the last year that we see both Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates on the field together? What will happen to the Chargers’ dynamic duo? Will they continue to be great after this season? Or will we have to say goodbye to our future hall of fame tight end, Antonio Gates, at year’s end?
There are two different ways to answer this question: the first is contractually and the second is by observation.
First, we will cover contractually. According to Antonio Gates’ contract, he is still going to be with the Chargers through 2017 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. So, he technically has two years to make the decision whether to retire early, or to play out the reminder of his contract and mentor the Chargers tight end of the future, Hunter Henry.
Personally, I watched Henry when he played for the University of Arkansas just this past year, and I was astonished at what I saw. He had a role that was similar to the one that Antonio Gates has for the Chargers; meaning that he was his quarterback’s first choice to throw the ball to, rather than a check-down, which seems to be what most tight ends are that are not named Gates, Gronkowski or Graham.
Now, let’s look at the observation. Looking at Gates’ statistics from the 2015 season, also known as the season the Chargers donated more than half their roster to the DL and IR (but that is another story), he only appeared in 11 of 16 games last season. Last season he only had 56 receptions and 630 receiving yards, as compared to the season before when he had 69 receptions and 821 yards.
It would not be a bad thing for Antonio Gates to retire after this season, and according to UT San Diego, he is contemplating it very seriously. Personally, I see this as what SHOULD be a driving force to the Chargers this season, similar to the Ravens several years ago when it seemed to be all about #WinItForRay. Ray, of course, is in reference to their long-time defensive captain and emotional center of the team, Ray Lewis.
Of course, only time will tell when Antonio Gates retires, but one thing is for certain: whenever he does retire, he should get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot.