Over the coming weeks, I will be performing an analysis of each position group on the Chargers roster. The goal is to break down each group and see how each player faired in 2019. This will help to determine which players should be resigned, which positions need to be upgraded via free agency, or the draft, and potential contract extensions for the many players entering their prime. I am pushing for a goal date of March 6th, prior to the start of free agency. Free agency begins March 11th for negotiating, and players may enter into contracts on March 13th, the start of the new league year. This will provide me a week to look at potential free agents the Chargers should resign, and targets to upgrade their own team.
Hunter Henry is a young emerging tight end in the league. I have heard through a few articles that the Chargers plan to Transition Tag Henry, if they are unable to come to a contract agreement. This would guarantee the Bolts the right of first refusal, by allowing the club to match any contract Henry may be offered. Make no mistake that Henry is a star in this league, and even though he has dealt with injuries, he is still a value-able piece, who is about to get paid. At only 25 years old, Henry’s best years of football are still ahead of him.
In a season where he played 12 of 16 games, Henry had 55 catches for 652 yards and 5 touchdowns. Of his 74 targets, he only had 3 drops. He caught 74% of passes thrown his way, and in a year where Rivers had a down year, Rivers passing rating when targeting Henry was 117.6%. He runs nice routes as a tight end, and is a great red zone target. He has smooth hands, and can make contested catches. He is a decent run blocker, not mauling defenders, but he gets in the way. He has actually posted decent pass-blocking ratings from PFF, and is valuable in the screen game. At 6’5, 250 pounds, he has the size to matchup with linebackers, the awareness to find the hole between the numbers, and 4.6 speed to run a number of different routes.
There isn’t a whole lot that needs to be improved in his game. Availability has been his biggest issue, specifically with his knee. He has torn his ACL, and had a minor fracture earlier in the year. He can be a little grabby with his block, but overall it isn’t a giant issue. I think his main goal should be to get stronger. He seems to have the size, but hasn’t turned into the mauler to fit his size, and honestly, he hasn’t needed to with the other tight ends on the roster. His strengths seem to outweigh his weaknesses. Overall, Henry a great, intelligent player that I hope stays a Bolt of a long time.
As a restricted free agent, I am concerned with the fact that he hasn’t signed a new contract yet. He should be a top priority this offseason, and while the Bolts have the cap space and right of first refusal, I would still work on a multi-year deal keeping him in a powder blue jersey the next 5 years. Spottrac estimates his market value at about $9 Million-a-year. I would have no problem signing Henry to a 5-Year, $45 Million dollar contract. As a young chess piece, Henry would a be valuable security blanket for a new, rookie, signal caller that is most definately in the near future for the Bolts.
Virgil Green has been on the roster now for 3 years. He spent his first 7 years playing for the Denver Broncos, and is one of the few players on the roster who has a Super Bowl ring. He’s a similar player to Lance Kendricks, in that he is used primarily in the run game. When Hunter Henry tore his ACL in 2018, he actually had an opportunity to step in a starting role, but the team decided to bring in an aged Antonio Gates, due to the lack of Greens receiving abilities. He is good for about 20-30 snaps a game, but primarily as a 2nd or 3rd tight end in run situations. He is due $3.5 million next year and may be let go with growth from Sean Culkin next offseason. He will probably stick around the final year of his contract.
Lance Kendricks is a veteran who has moved around a bit the last few years. He has spent the majority of his career with the St. Louis Rams, before they moved to Los Angeles and spent 2 years in Green Bay with a short stint in a patriots jersey. After the season ending injury to Sean Culkin, the Chargers brought in Kendricks on a 1-year rental. For his career, Kendricks hasn’t produced great numbers in receiving. He has neared 500 yards receiving twice in his career, both in 2012 and in 2016. All of last year, he only had 3 catches. Kendricks is an average run-blocker who was mainly used in 3 tight end sets. At 32 years old, Kendricks is past his prime for sure, but he’s an intelligent player. He wasn’t much used outside weeks 3-5 last year. Look for the Bolts to move on from the veteran this offseason.
It looked like this would be the year that Sean Culkin would step into a greater role, before an Achilles tear prematurely ended his season. He looked considerably better than his 2018 season. He has improved as a pass catcher and is one of the players I am looking forward to seeing in camp next year. He is presently a restricted free agent, and will likely be brought back in on a 1 year prove-it deal. He will be a strong depth piece and will need to show the same improvement next camp to stick around. With Hunter Henry as the obvious starter, I am hoping that Culkin forces Telesco’s hand in releasing Virgil Green, and potentially drafting a late round project.