Los Angeles Chargers star Hunter Henry hints at leaving in free agency

By Matt Fitzgerald
Dec 17, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry (86) celebrates his touchdowns scored against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry isn’t ruling out a return to the Bolts in 2021, but he’s not exactly giving a firm commitment to the team as he braces for free agency.

Henry spoke out recently about his opportunity to sign with a new team, and while he acknowledged some benefits of sticking with the Chargers, he’s still open about other opportunities.

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Hunter Henry to flee Los Angeles Chargers for new 2021 team?

In an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio (h/t NFL Media), Henry commented on what he’s looking for on the open market and how he’s far from certain about being in a Chargers uniform next season:

“I’m open to whatever, and I think I kind of have to, in a way, but I really enjoyed my time and if that continues, I’ll be excited. If that doesn’t, then that would be a new step and a new place to kind of start again.

“[…] Playing with a good quarterback always makes things better… [but you] gotta look at both. You gotta look at some of the financial stuff, but not dive too deep into it that you go chasing it.”

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry on 2021 NFL free agency

While this may feel like somewhat of a reductive storyline — after all, Henry is a free agent — it’s still noteworthy that the 26-year-old isn’t automatically going to return to LA.

The presence of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is an undeniable draw for Henry, who developed a solid rapport with him last season. In 14 games played, Henry hauled in 60 catches for 613 yards and four touchdowns.

Replacing a pass-catching threat at tight end like Henry is no easy task, and Los Angeles already franchise tagged him prior to the 2020 campaign. If a long-term deal can’t be worked out under the tighter salary cap, Henry is likely to play elsewhere for a bigger payday — and potentially still enjoy his prime with another high-end signal-caller.

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Hunter Henry’s 2021 free agency outlook, best team fits

Hunter Henry's 2021 free agency outlook, best team fits
Nov 15, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) celebrates with tight end Hunter Henry (86) after a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Gronkowski is really the only other tight end on the 2021 free agent market that’s likely to command a lot of suitors. Everyone else is either too late into their career or simply not as good as Henry to justify forking over an expensive, multi-year contract for.

In all likelihood, Gronkowski will make his numbers work in order to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and pursue a potential second straight Super Bowl with Tom Brady and Co., which leaves Henry as the obvious big-ticket tight end.

An entire separate write-up could be dedicated to breaking down where Henry might land, but it’s worth briefly getting into here since he’s obviously considering leaving a great situation in LA.

Among the teams with the most cap space to spend, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts both stand out as logical destinations for Henry. Jacksonville is about to land Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and Indianapolis is considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender — provided head coach Frank Reich can resurrect QB Carson Wentz‘s career.

Really, the Chargers have more cap space than most teams expected to compete for the playoffs (our latest update has them at almost $34 million). It’s a matter of how Bolts general manager Tom Telesco wants to construct the roster going forward, but the only other major free agent Los Angeles really has is edge-rusher Melvin Ingram.

Don’t be surprised if Henry winds up remaining with the Chargers despite his recent remarks. He could just be flexing his leverage as the No. 1 tight end aside from Gronk in the 2021 free agent class to make sure he’s properly compensated in the end.

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