Antonio Gates talks contract

The wheels continue to churn out signings of import. First was the signing of Keenan McCardell and then came the extension of Steve Foley. Justin Peelle and Jesse Chatman followed. While the Chargers locked up key veterans with strong leadership skills, they must now look to the youth and work towards extending their future in blue and gold.

General manager A.J. Smith called it his priority – taking care of his own house. And perhaps the veterans were the easy ones to take care of. But the team will now have to focus on extending deals on two players who are close to joining the elite.

Toniu Fonoti is entering the last year of his deal. After leaving his problems behind when he showed up a day late to the start of training camp, Fonoti became the All-Pro level guard that many expected when he came out of Nebraska in the 2002 NFL Draft.

"From the first day he got to camp he has been outstanding," Smith said.

Perhaps he was angry about the perception people had of him or perhaps his mean-streak stemmed from being placed on injured reserve too soon the year before, but whatever it was that little a fire under the big man appears here to stay.

With the agility of a panther, Fonoti proved to be the most effective run blocker on the team and surprised many with his ability to pass protect. A feared weakness had suddenly become a strength as he pawed opponents to the ground with a massive swat.

Fonoti, just 20 when he entered the league, is still refining his game at the tender age of 23. A year from now he will just start hitting his prime and keeping him in the fold will be a key element to the future of the team's success along the interior of the line.

The other player already on the agenda for an extension is Antonio Gates. The Chargers have been working hard at getting their Pro Bowl tight end locked up well into the future. They know they got a steal when they originally signed him – but so does his agent.

With restricted free agency awaiting Gates after this year, the feeling within the organization is that some team will try and sign him even if they issue him the top tender, requiring first and third round draft choices in return.

One would have thought Antonio Gates former profession was dodgeball and not basketball after he sidestepped issues relating to his contract status.

"There are certain things you can control and certain things you can't," said Gates. "That is something that is above and beyond my head, something I have no control over. Right now I can only control what is in front of me and that is going to work out, being the best teammate and being the best player I can be."

With rumors of him holding out Gates, he points out that he is among the 90 percent of players participating in the offseason conditioning program at the Murphy Canyon facility.

"I hear rumors about myself all the time," Gates added. "Rumors are rumors. You can't go far on just rumors."

The Chargers definitely want Gates locked up long term. It is something they are actively pursuing. Agreeing on a dollar amount with his agent, after he set the record for the most touchdowns in a season by a tight end and was an integral part of the Chargers offense.

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