Chargers TE Antonio Gates expected to play in 2017

Antonio Gates
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

It might seem as though Antonio Gates is a natural candidate for retirement. But the San Diego Chargers tight end is not eager to make the 2016 season his final NFL memory.

From both a team and individual perspective, this season has been a disaster. The Chargers are 5-10, well out of the playoff race, and ended the Cleveland Browns’ chances at an 0-16 season in Week 16. The season — particularly the latter half — has also been spent with a gigantic cloud over it. It seems all but assured that San Diego will no longer be the Chargers’ home in 2017, which you can read more about here. That has created an environment where some of the team’s home games feel like true road games.

Individually, the season has also been disappointing.

In 13 games, Gates has caught 48 passes for 493 yards and six touchdowns. Statistically, that’s one of the worst seasons of his career. In 2015, Gates played only 11 games, but caught 56 passes for 630 yards and five touchdowns.

If Gates does come back, it probably shouldn’t be with the Bolts.

Gates will be 37 during the 2017 season. If he returns, it should be with a team that gives him a genuine chance to win. The Chargers are not that likely going to be that team. Additionally, San Diego is at a point where it should be going younger. Rookie Hunter Henry has emerged as a viable option. The Chargers owe it to themselves to see if he may be a building block for future teams.

While it may be tough to let a franchise icon like Gates go, it would probably be mutually beneficial for him to finish his career elsewhere.