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Chargers Make Gates NFL's Highest-Paid TE
As The National Football Post's Aaron Wilson framed it, "The San Diego Chargers aren't doing any business at this time with wide receiver Vincent Jackson, offensive tackle Marcus McNeill and linebacker Shawne Merriman.

"Their coffers are not closed, though, to six-time Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates. ..."

He's now under contract through 2015. According to, Gates' deal is worth $36.175 million and includes $20.4 million in guaranteed money. According to ESPN insider Chris Mortensen, who first reported the deal, Gates is now the highest-paid tight end in the league.

“Antonio is a special player and person. He is everything we are looking for in a Chargers player,” general manager A.J. Smith said. “His talent and contributions to our team speak for themselves. His work ethic and desire to be the best are unmatched. He has been a major part of the success we have had over the past several years, and we are thrilled he will continue to be with us for years to come.”

Gates was named to the Chargers' all-decade team.

He caught 79 passes last season for a career-high 1,157 yards and eight touchdowns. His 14.6 yards per catch average was the highest in the NFL among all tight ends.

Since his rookie season of 2003, Gates leads all tight ends in touchdown catches with 59. He ranks second in yards (6,223) and third in catches (479).

"I’ve been blessed my whole career to be with one team," Gates said. "It’s always good to get (the contract) out of the way. The goal is to win a championship. We all are human and it becomes a distraction even though you might not want it to be. It’s always great to be able to go ahead and do what you need to do and get it out of the way."

As Wilson pointed out, there are presently seven modern-era tight ends enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Gates’ career touchdown total of 59 exceeds all seven. The Hall of Fame list includes former Charger Kellen Winslow along with John Mackey, Ozzie Newsome, Dave Casper, Jackie Smith, Charlie Sanders and Mike Ditka.

Gates needs just 62 catches and 518 yards to equal Winslow’s career statistics.

According to's Mike Florio, extending Gates was first on Smith's to-do list with regard to contract decisions.

McNeill is up next. Jackson is third in line.

And Smith has no illusions that either deal will be done soon.

Speaking about McNeill and Jackson, Smith told's Bill Williamson on Wednesday that he has been told that the two players will be “out for a considerable amount of time.”

Smith said he, at this point, is expecting that both McNeill and Jackson will hold out for the first 10 games of the regular season and then report to accrue an NFL season.

“I believe they are preparing to withhold their services,” Smith said. “We’re preparing for that. If we get that back after 10 games, then we’ll deal with that. Getting two Pro Bowl-caliber players with six games to go and then potentially the postseason is not a bad thing.

“Whether they come back as starters, role players, or as injury replacements, that remains to be seen and will be up to (head coach) Norv Turner. ... But six games is still a significant part of the season.”

Meanwhile, the Chargers’ top pick Ryan Mathews remains unsigned.

While Williamson has been told the talks could take some time, there aren’t any major concerns that Mathews will stay away from camp for an extended period of time. The same can’t be said for McNeill and Jackson, and San Diego is preparing for the holdouts to last until the stretch run of the regular season.

Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee and Craig "Buster" Davis are looking like the top three options at wideout unless and/or until Jackson returns.

"If Vincent Jackson isn’t with us, Legedu Naanee is getting the opportunity of a lifetime,” Turner said last week. “(And) Buster Davis is getting the opportunity of a lifetime. Legedu believes he can be a dynamic, explosive receiver in this league. He has the same feeling about himself that Vincent Jackson had about himself when he got here.”

According to San Diego Union-Tribune staffer Kevin Acee, NFL statistics show that Naanee caught 24 of the 29 passes thrown his way last season -- the highest percentage of any receiver targeted at least 25 times -- and that he was most productive on second down and in the second quarter.

Acee went on to point out, however, that Naanee’s 10.1-yard average per reception is more typical of tight ends.

Still, Acee expects Naanee's opportunities to multiply in Jackson’s absence and his role in the offense could change. Having made only two of his 24 receptions last year from two-wideout sets, Naanee now figures to be competing with Davis to be the man for all formations opposite Floyd.

Assuming Smith is right about the length of Jackson's holdout, it will be worth watching to see if Naanee is up to the challenge.