Hunter Henry's future with the Chargers is only visible for one lucrative season, at least on paper.
Henry will play on the franchise tag in 2020, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, meaning Henry and the Chargers are not expected to come to an agreement on a multi-year contract before Wednesday's deadline.
The franchise tag is used for a small variety of reasons in any typical year. Oftentimes, a team will use it to keep control of a key player whose contract is up and with whom the organization has yet to find common ground on a long-term deal. Sometimes those deals work out before the July deadline on which the one-year deal becomes the player's official contract for the season. And in other instances, the plan all along is to use the tag to keep a promising player for one more year to find out if he's really worth extending long term.
For Henry, it looks more like the latter. The tight end missed the entire 2018 season due to a torn ACL suffered in the offseason, and he missed four games in 2019 with a fractured knee cap. The promise remains even with the injury concerns, though, which is why the Chargers tagged the tight end who caught a career-high 55 passes for 652 yards (another career high) and five touchdowns in just 12 games last season.
The other factor is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought on financial uncertainty not seen in the NFL since the 2011 lockout. With teams not sure of how the salary cap is going to change in 2021 due to potential financial losses incurred in 2020, some front offices are hesitant to rush into long-term deals worth significant money. Henry appears to be included on this list of players financially affected by the pandemic as well.
Another good season would strengthen his place as an important player to the Chargers' future. A good season that's also a healthy one might just cement it.