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No Recent Contact Between the Chargers and TE Antonio Gates

With each passing week, the chances of tight end Antonio Gates re-signing with the Chargers appear increasingly slim, Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News reports.

General Manager Tom Telesco said Monday that the team has not been in recent contact with Gates, an unrestricted free agent who is less than two months away from his 38th birthday.

“I understand it’s a big topic,” Telesco said. “I just don’t have an update on it right now.”

The Chargers met with Gates’ representatives at the NFL scouting combine in early March, but even then, Telesco was non-committal about a potential reunion: “There are so many moving parts in free agency,” he said. “We’ve still got some things to talk over.”

Those talks apparently haven’t progressed, despite Gates’ professed desire to extend his playing career. The 15-year veteran holds the all-time record for NFL tight ends with 114 regular-season touchdown catches, three of which he added last year. After catching four passes for 46 yards on New Year’s Eve, he told reporters: “I still got the juice.”

But at what cost? Gates earned $5 million last season, and hasn’t netted less than $4.5 million in any given year since 2009. Meanwhile, Hunter Henry — one of the NFL’s best young tight ends — is set to earn just over $1 million in base salary in his third season with the Chargers. The franchise also signed veteran Virgil Green, a blocking tight end who has caught for 601 yards in the last three years, in March.

If the Chargers further supplement the depth chart in this week’s NFL draft, retaining Gates might signal more sentimentality than practicality.

Even Philip Rivers — whose 87 touchdown passes to Gates represents the league record for a quarterback-tight end duo — acknowledged the possibility that they might not connect on the field again.

“You’d love for him to get one more shot to be with us and go make a run at it,” Rivers said last week. “Like we’ve said every year, ‘This is going to be the year.’ But who knows? If it were not to work out, and if he were to decide to hang it up, who knows? He’s had a heck of a run. He has nothing left to prove, that’s for sure.”

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