COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Veteran tight end Antonio Gates indicated he'd like to play for another year at the end of the 2017 campaign, but whether that will be for the Los Angeles Chargers for the upcoming season or another team remains to be seen.
Gates' replacement Hunter Henry was productive but finished the year on the injured reserve with a lacerated kidney. The Chargers also have to replace tight ends coach John McNulty, who took a job as the offensive coordinator at Rutgers.
Lock: Hunter Henry
On the bubble: Sean Culkin
The good: Henry finished with 45 receptions for 579 receiving yards and four scores. The Chargers were 7-1 in 2017 in games Henry was targeted at least five times. Gates finished the year strong with Henry out the last two games, totaling 10 catches for 127 receiving yards and a touchdown in wins over the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders. McGrath did a solid job as the Chargers' blocking tight end and also played on special teams. McGrath served as the Bolts' backup long snapper.
The bad: According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chargers averaged just 3.2 yards per carry when using two tight-end sets, No. 27 in the NFL. Gates had his least productive season in the NFL since his rookie year in 2003, totaling 30 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns. The Chargers failed to get Henry involved in the offense early in the year. The Arkansas product was not targeted in two of the first four games as the Chargers started the season 0-4.
The money: Gates, Cumberland and Cleveland are unrestricted free agents, while McGrath is a restricted free agent. Henry is scheduled to make about $1 million in the third year of his rookie deal, while Culkin will make $555,000 in the second year of his rookie contract.
Draft priority: The overall talent at this position is solid, of course led by Henry. Culkin is a good, developmental pass-catching tight end who offers versatility because of his ability to play fullback. The Chargers should bring back Gates at the right price, perhaps a two-year deal worth $6 million with the 2018 salary guaranteed.