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Chargers need succession plan for Antonio Gates

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Chargers need a succession plan for Antonio Gates (1:35)

ESPN NFL Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams discusses how San Diego will find the eventual replacement for Antonio Gates. (1:35)

SAN DIEGO -- Four years of nurturing and development went out the window for the San Diego Chargers when Ladarius Green signed a four-year, $20 million deal to join the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A fourth-round draft pick in 2012, the Louisiana-Lafayette product was mentored by one of the best tight ends in the game in Antonio Gates, and was considered his eventual replacement.

However Gates continued to play at a high level. The Chargers re-signed Gates to a two-year contract, guaranteeing he will retire as a Charger. Green, seeking more playing time, joined the Steelers to help replace the retiring Heath Miller.

While Green never fully lived up to his potential due to nagging injuries and inconsistency, the Chargers now have a void at tight end, and do not have a succession plan for Gates.

John Phillips and David Johnson are free agents, but both players are considered more blocking tight ends. San Diego also has Sean McGrath, Asante Cleveland and Tim Semisch on the 90-man roster, but those three have a combined 27 catches in the NFL and are considered more developmental prospects.

The Chargers were predominantly a three receiver set team in 2015, using three receivers on 710 of their snaps while using two tight end formations on just 283 offensive snaps.

In an effort to improve the running game, the Chargers could use more two tight end sets in 2016. However the Chargers have to bring in the right personnel to make that work.

Current free agents who could make sense include Jared Cook, Owen Daniels and Vernon Davis.

The Chargers also could draft someone like Ohio State’s Nick Vanett, South Carolina’s Jerell Adams or Stanford’s Austin Hooper.

Whatever general manager Tom Telesco decides, San Diego must look to add depth at the tight end position, with Gates turning 36 in June.