The Chargers have since confirmed Gates' return and the tight end commented on his decision to remain with the organization:
Happy to remain a @Chargers . My intentions have always been to retire in San Diego . No place I'd rather be. Best Fans and organization.— Antonio Gates (@AntonioGates85) March 9, 2016
Gates is coming off a down year by his typically high standards. He missed the first four games of the 2015 regular season after a performance-enhancing-drug suspension and then racked up a modest 56 catches for 630 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games.
Add in a lengthy injury history, and it was fair to wonder whether the 35-year-old Kent State product might be nearing retirement.
However, Gates stated back in December that he hoped to keep playing. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune passed along the veteran's comments about not wanting to end on a low note.
"I don't want to go out this kind of way," Gates said. "I don't want to go out as a loser. Winning is the way, ideally, you want to go out. … I want to make one more run at it, and then if it doesn't work, be like, 'OK.' That's just my feeling right now."
The next question was whether he'd end up back with the Chargers as his contract came to an end.
Ultimately, Gates and the Chargers were able to find enough common ground to ensure he'll remain with the only franchise he's ever known. It certainly would have been strange to see him don a different uniform at this stage of his career.
It's unlikely the tight end will return to an All-Pro level on a consistent basis. That said, he can still serve as a valuable piece of the team's offensive attack, given the lack of proven playmakers outside of top wide receiver Keenan Allen.
In the bigger picture, it's another step toward making sure Gates retires as a member of the Chargers, which is the conclusion that has always made the most sense.