According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts are the best team fit for soon-to-be free agent Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry:
5. Hunter Henry, TE
Best fit: Indianapolis Colts
This offense is ready to take off ... once it figures out the quarterback spot. Adding a new dimension at tight end to complement young pieces Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. will set up the new quarterback nicely. Let Jack Doyle handle the dirty work and Henry will get open. Don’t sleep on the Chargers keeping him, too. Losing him would be big for Justin Herbert.
The former 2016 2nd round pick is coming off a consecutive strong season for the Chargers in which he caught 60 receptions for 613 receiving yards (10.2 ypr. avg.) and 4 touchdown receptions during 14 starts in 2020.
10. TE HUNTER HENRY
At the beginning of his career, it looked as though Hunter Henry was set to become the league’s next great tight end. His first two seasons in the league featured overall PFF grades of 83.0 and then 87.2, but then injuries really began to bite. He missed almost the entirety of 2018, and though he has returned to be a productive player, has never quite recaptured that initial form.
There is still plenty of time for that to happen, however, even if his ceiling has been reset — Henry has ranked 14th and 18th over the last two years. He is a productive and capable tight end with plenty of tools to be an excellent receiver in any offense. Henry has the size to box defenders out underneath, the savvy to find holes in a defense and enough route-running skills to separate over the middle.
Contract Analysis: Henry battled back from a torn ACL suffered in 2018 to regain most of his form before hitting free agency. The optics coming off a $10.6M 2020 franchise tag should boost his value as well.
Prediction: Chargers sign Henry for four years, $48 million ($12M APY): $23.5M total guaranteed, $16.5 million fully guaranteed at signing.
While not a ‘Travis Kelce’ caliber superstar at the position (as few are), Henry is one of the better tight ends in all of football and is still only 26 years old.
The former John Mackey Award winner out of Arkansas has good size at 6’5”, 250 pounds to box out defenders and would be a proven red zone threat for the Colts. He’s an overall sure-handed security blanket with some speed to separate down the seam—as he’s a pretty good athlete at the position. While not a great blocker, Henry’s capable there.
The issue with Henry is his durability. He’s never started 16 games in a season and missed the entirety of the 2018 season with a torn ACL. He did play in 14 games during 2020 though before being shut down for the Bolts’ final two games on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
It’s something to be cognizant of if the Colts were to award Henry with a lucrative multi-year deal in free agency this offseason.
Regarding the Colts, veteran tight end Trey Burton is a free agent, and the team could withstand to get a bit more dynamic at the position overall. Fellow veteran Jack Doyle remains a reliable dirty work ‘do-it-all’ tight end, and young, big bodied tight end Mo Alie-Cox had a breakout season in limited action—but the Colts lack a weapon at the position, who can really stretch the middle of the field.
For what it’s worth, the Colts have also been recently linked to Philadelphia Eagles former All-Pro tight end Zach Ertz.
Personally, it would make more sense to me, for overall roster building and team salary cap management, if the Colts invested a mid-round pick at the position over big dollars in a really good—but not necessarily elite tight end in Henry. However, I am not the one calling the shots.
That being said, the Colts offense needs more dynamic playmakers all together, and Henry is one of the better young tight ends currently in football, who could help the franchise accomplish such a feat this offseason (and whoever’s starting at quarterback in 2021).