When Hunter Henry departed the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency this off-season, that did muddle the future of the position a little bit for the team. While the Chargers were quick to grab a replacement in Jared Cook, it’s hard to see him being much more than a stopgap. And the competition beyond Cook is a little tighter than one might expect. So let’s take a look at the Los Angeles Chargers tight ends and what we can expect from them.
Looking at the 2021 Los Angeles Chargers Tight Ends
While the long-term future of the position is currently unclear, the short-term for this year is pretty well set with Jared Cook. Cook is not elite by any means, but he has been a reliable security blanket the last few years for the likes of Drew Brees and Derek Carr. He is also capable of making the occasional big play downfield (Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs against the Dallas Cowboys, namely). Cook only signed a one-year deal and it’s hard to see him being around for more than one or two years, given that he’s a veteran and nearing the tail end of his career. But he’ll be able to fill the void left by Henry well enough on a temporary basis.
Parham at one time looked to be a possible candidate to be the guy at the tight end in the future. However, with the drafting of Tre’ McKitty, that became a little murky. Parham still is needing some development as a blocker, which has kept him relegated pretty firmly to backup even when Henry was injured. However, he is an excellent goal-line threat due to his ridiculous height (6’8”) and an impressive wingspan as well, and the Chargers did take advantage of this a little bit last year as he caught three touchdowns. They may well keep using him in that role, though he may need to show some improvement in other areas this off-season in order to hold off the competition in the depth chart.
This is the addition that made things interesting. McKitty was an unexpected draft selection late in the third round. For one thing, McKitty never had much college production; he never had more than 300 yards in a season and only had six catches in 2020 with Georgia, though the latter stat could partially be blamed on quarterback play. He’s still known for being a decent blocker, and that is where he’s primarily expected to be used early on, though he seems capable of being a fine receiver as well. Regardless, the blocking ability may give him a leg up over Parham.
Still, it does bear mentioning that the main reason they selected him and when they did (viewed to be a reach) was that they wanted a pro-ready blocker – and by their calculations, McKitty was the only one left. And given that it seems to have been at least partially a selection of necessity than a selection of “this was the guy we wanted all along,” one does wonder just how high his ceiling will be, even if he does provide some good help as a blocker. Time will tell.
Stephen Anderson is a career backup who’s also pretty good at blocking but isn’t ever likely to be a starter as a pass-catching tight end, save for out of necessity. He actually did get a couple of starts late last year when Henry was on the Covid reserve list and got a handful of looks. But given that one already knows what to expect from him, it’s quite possible McKitty may end up taking his spot. Anderson may still make the roster and they might keep four tight ends, but if it comes to it, he may end up being the odd man out.
The remaining names are quite unlikely to be on the final roster. Matt Sokol is a perennial practice squad guy, and he could be kept in that capacity. Hunter Kampmoyer and Matt Seybert – undrafted free agents – are likely just camp bodies unless they surprise everyone. There may be competition among the initial top four names listed above, but there’s not likely to be much after that.
The Chargers have their starter well set for this year. After that, it’s an unknown – Parham has a high ceiling, but may be limited to being a red-zone target unless he gets better at blocking, and McKitty may have a low ceiling (though his college situations did not do him any favors). Whether the tight end of the future is currently on the roster remains to be seen. But the Chargers at least have one reliable target there in Cook for Justin Herbert already, and they look to have at least one additional good blocker as well. For this year’s purposes, they should be fine.
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