SAN DIEGO – A mentor for Keenan Allen since he joined the San Diego Chargers as a third-round draft pick in 2013, tight end Antonio Gates was pleased to see the Cal product rewarded with a four-year, $45 million contract extension this week.
“I’m super happy for him just because it’s something we’ve always talked about,” Gates said. “I’ve been on him; he’s like a little brother to me. At one point he had doubts about playing in this league, and to see him get a contract and be a Charger for the next four years, it speaks volumes -- not only for him, but for others players in this locker room about what you can do when an opportunity presents itself.”
Allen was No. 4 on the depth chart for the Chargers during training camp his rookie year, and questioned whether he belonged in the NFL. But season-ending injuries to Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd catapulted him into the starting lineup, and Allen took advantage of the opportunity, finishing with 71 catches for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns his rookie season.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco watched Allen’s work ethic improve during the last three years and felt even though the Cal product still had a year left on his deal, now was the time to get the 24-year-old locked up for the long haul.
“We’ve seen him grow,” Telesco said. “He was 20 years old when we drafted him, so very young. We’ve seen him mature and work hard. A lot of credit goes to Keenan with the work he’s put into it, and Fred Graves, who was our receivers coach the first couple years
“He’s a big part of our core moving forward. And when Philip is your quarterback, you need people to throw to. And Keenan has been very good for us. We’re excited about it.”
Added head coach Mike McCoy: “He’s really just changed the way he approaches the game, and he’s become a pro, and he’s learned from some good guys. I think having a guy like Malcom to watch every day and say, ‘This is the right way to do things,’ Keenan has taken advantage of that. He deserves every penny he got.”
However, NFL contracts are not based on past production, but future performance. Allen has missed 10 games due to injury his first three years in the league. He has to prove he can stay healthy and put up numbers worthy of a No. 1 receiver for the duration of a 16-game campaign.
“It’s big,” Allen said about his new deal. “It shows that hard work pays off. I just tried to play as hard as I could and fight for whatever I could get. So here we are, and hopefully I can do it again.”