SAN DIEGO -- Antonio Gates played a full, 16-game season for a second straight year with the San Diego Chargers and tied for the league-lead in touchdown receptions for tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Julius Thomas were the others) with 12. Nagging injuries and limited playing time led to Ladarius Green taking a step back in his development.
Lock: Gates, Green
The good: Gates once again was productive, finishing second on the team with 69 catches for 821 yards and 12 touchdowns. Gates led the Chargers with 20 third-down catches that resulted in first downs. Gates became the 43rd player in league history to eclipse 10,000 career receiving yards. He heads into the 2015 season needing one touchdown catch to become the ninth player in NFL history with 100.
The bad: While Gates soared, Green sputtered. In his third season, Green, 24, had more catches (19) in 2014 than he totaled in 2013 (17). However, Green finished with just four plays of 20-plus yards in 2014; he averaged 22.1 yards a catch in 2013. Green also failed to find the end zone in 2014, after scoring three touchdowns in 2013. Green played just 274 snaps -- 27 percent of San Diego's offensive snaps. Green played in 350 offensive snaps in 2013. Green had three targets and one reception in the red zone in 2014, compared to four red zone targets in 2013.
The money: Gates, Green, Philips and Johnson all enter 2015 in the final year of their contracts. Gates will turn 35 in June, and is set to make $5.9 million in base salary for the upcoming season. Green will make $660,000 in the final year of his rookie deal. Philips is scheduled to earn $1.45 million in base salary in 2015, and could be a potential target for a contract restructure. Johnson will make $750,000 this year if he's on San Diego's final roster.
Draft priority: Medium. The Chargers have three pass-catching tight ends in Gates, Green and Paulson. However, San Diego could use some competition at the blocking/H-back position. A player like Delaware tight end Nick Boyle or Notre Dame's Ben Koyack could make some sense as a mid-round pick in this year's draft. Virgil Green of the Denver Broncos or Chase Coffman of the Tennessee Titans could be viable options through free agency.