As the franchise tag deadline of March 9 zooms forward and the NFL offseason appears to be the great wide open, it is certainly so for those in powder blue as it concerns standout tight end Hunter Henry.
Having played on the tag in 2020, Henry's future with the Los Angeles Chargers is once more in doubt with the only certainty from the Bolts brass being that everything -- presumably a franchise tag, a long-term deal or losing him in free agency -- is a possibility.
"We're just keeping all of the options open right now," Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said Thursday when asked if the team would place the tag on Henry. "This year, with where the cap is, it makes it more difficult than in other years. But, I think you have to keep all of the doors open at this point."
Henry played on the tag in 2020 and turned in one of his better seasons, hauling in 60 receptions for 613 yards and four touchdowns.
A 2016 NFL Draft second-round pick by the Bolts, Henry is a homegrown product who's battled through injuries to become one of the NFL's better tight ends. In Telesco's words, Henry is very much emblematic of the type of player the Chargers are always looking to find and an example of what the franchise is aiming to do in terms of drafting and growing talent. Unfortunately, that comes with no guarantees regarding tomorrow.
"Well, he falls under the category of things we've done right," Telesco said. "You draft a player, he develops and turns into a really, really high-level tight end for us -- and a big part of this football team. Our philosophy has been to draft, develop and re-sign. Now, can you do that with every single player? You can't. Not in a salary cap era, and certainly not in an era where we are right now where it's lowered. That doesn't change how we feel about him. We know what he means to the football team. We'll just kind of see where our options are. He's a big part of the football team. I love how he plays the game. He fits what we do on the field and off of the field. He's a high-level player."
As the Chargers look to emerge from consecutive losing seasons with a new head coach in Brandon Staley and a burgeoning franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert, the 26-year-old Henry would no doubt aid in that process.
Henry's stated he's "open to whatever" regarding his future and that combined with the Chargers "keeping all of the options open" adds up to a great unknown as to whether the tight end remains a focal point in a new Bolts era -- with a tag or long-term deal -- or moves on to another club in his first free-agent foray.