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Hunter Henry gets Chargers franchise tag

Hunter Henry will stay with the Chargers for at least the 2020 season.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports Henry has been franchise tagged by the Chargers. Henry is young and has the ability to be a top tight end in the league. The team will likely work on getting a long-term deal done before the tag goes into effect on July 15th.

We could be looking at one of the biggest free agency periods in recent memory if some of the notable names actually hit the open market. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Derrick Henry are just a few of the big names set to hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year opens on March 18th. One or more stands a good chance of signing a contract with their current team before then, but there is a chance one or more is taking calls when the tampering period opens on March 16th.

2019 in review

Last season was crucial for Hunter Henry to prove his worth, returning from an ACL tear that essentially cost him the entire 2018 season. While he did battle an injury once again in the early going, Henry recovered quickly to get back on top of his game. Henry set career-highs in receptions (55), targets (76) and yards (652) in just 12 games, bringing in five touchdowns. The missed games early in the season almost cost Henry big time, but he eventually proved what he set out to do, staying healthy and producing on the field. He’ll have a substantial market in free agency.

Possible destinations

Austin Hooper’s recent burst onto the free agency scene may knock Henry from the top TE on some team’s list to the second option. At the same time, the Falcons may be willing to do what it takes to retain Hooper, allowing other teams to quickly refocus on Henry. The Patriots are the first team that comes to everyone’s mind for TE additions. In Gronk’s first season retired, the trio of Benjamin Watson, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo combined for a 38-418-2 line ... basically three guys combining for what would be a weak season from Gronk if you doubled those numbers. The injuries for Henry will be a concern for any potential suitor, but the Pats needs to be aggressive to add at TE.

The Cardinals got virtually no production from the TE position last season, and giving Kyler Murray a big target in the short game could really help take that offense to the next level. The NFC West is loaded at TE, so the Cardinals may look to keep up by making an addition of their own.

Do the Chargers want to keep him?

The Chargers just got a career-season out of Henry in just 12 games. With Philip Rivers moving on, that almost certainly means transitioning to a young QB, maybe even drafting one. Why wouldn’t Los Angeles want to pair that QB with a 25-year-old TE that’s on the come up? Given the injuries, the Chargers may try to target a short-term contract or consider the franchise or transition tags.

Fantasy implications

Henry’s 12.85-DKFP average in 2019 was among the best at his position. If he remains in Los Angeles, his fantasy value will have a lot to do with who the Chargers roll out there at QB. As long as it’s not a complete disaster, Henry should remain extremely relevant. I think the best-case scenario for Henry’s fantasy value is actually leaving. If he wound up with either Tom Brady or Kyler Murray in the potential destinations above, Henry should thrive, if healthy.

Rumored interest

New England Patriots

Henry’s name is coming up “consistently” with the Patriots, according to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller.