Chargers leave door open for Antonio Gates’ return

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The Chargers met with Antonio Gates this week about the tight end’s future. Gates already has said he hopes to keep playing for the team.

The Chargers appear more open to that possibility than they were at this time last season.

The Chargers bid farewell to Gates in the 2018 offseason only to bring him back after Hunter Henry‘s torn anterior cruciate ligament in May.

“My heart says, yeah, he’ll be back next year,” Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said this week, via Sam Fortier of The Athletic. “But you put your G.M. hat on, and you look at what’s the role, where are resources are with the cap.

“We’ll come to that conclusion a lot quicker than we did last year.”

The salary cap obviously will play a part in whether the Chargers invite Gates back for a 17th season as will the other players they have at the position. Henry and blocker Virgil Green will return as the team’s top tight ends. The Chargers also like reserve Sean Culkin, according to Fortier.

Gates, though, is a bigger contributor in the locker room and tight ends room than perhaps he is on the field at this point in his career. He caught only 28 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns while appearing in every regular-season game this season.

“When I play, I play with 110 percent. I play to win. I play as a teammate,” Gates said earlier this week. “Hopefully they’ll be able to see that and try to make the right decisions for the upcoming season.”