Hunter Henry’s torn ACL has left the Chargers short on experience at tight end, but is Julius Thomas really a good option?
With the Chargers announcement they would not be bringing back Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry officially vaulted to the top of any list of NFL breakout candidates for this year. But a torn ACL during OTAs last week has ended Henry’s 2018 season before it starts, and as veteran tight ends are considered Eric Williams of ESPN.com suggests Julius Thomas could be on the Chargers’ radar.
Thomas was cut by the Miami Dolphins at the start of the new league year, after delivering 41 receptions for 388 yards and three touchdowns over 14 games last season. The Jacksonville Jaguars dumped Thomas on the Dolphins via trade during the 2017 offseason, just two years into a five-year, $46 million contract (thank you, Peyton Manning)
Over the 2013 and 2014 seasons with the Denver Broncos, Thomas had 109 total receptions with 12 touchdown catches each season. But injury issues that limited him to eight games in his first two NFL seasons (2011 and 2012) have resurfaced since that Manning-driven production spike, and Thomas has not even averaged 10 yards a catch in any of the last three seasons.
In the wake of Henry’s injury, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has talked openly about the prospect of bringing Gates back. There’s also an opportunity for the Chargers to get a closer look at Virgil Green, Sean Culkin, Braedon Bowman, Cole Hunt and Ben Johnson, and a few other free agent tight ends have knowledge of the Chargers’ offense.
Playing with another Hall of Fame quarterback in Philip Rivers could revive Thomas. But he has gotten zero known interest on the open market since being cut by Miami, which seems to say it all about how he’s viewed as a potential contributor.
Barring a surprise emergence between now and Week 1, for whatever that will be worth, the Chargers can’t go into the season with Green as their No. 1 tight end. But Thomas should be down their list of veteran options, and bringing back Gates stands as a far better option.