NFL free agency 2021: Chargers lose Hunter Henry to Patriots

The Chargers suffered a significant free-agent loss Tuesday when Hunter Henry agreed to a three-year contract with the New England Patriots.

The tight end was coming off a season in which he set a career-high with 60 catches for 613 yards. Henry also was targeted a career-high 93 times, becoming a favorite of quarterback Justin Herbert.

The deal will pay Henry up to $37.5 million, with $25 million guaranteed, according to reports.

His departure means the Chargers likely will have to use free agency to bolster the position. Veterans Kyle Rudolph and Jared Cook are the two most prominent options available.

Cook, who turns 34 in April, played the last two seasons in New Orleans, where Joe Lombardi was an offensive assistant. Lombardi is the Chargers’ new offensive coordinator.

The Chargers have the No. 13 overall pick in the draft and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is considered to be a potential superstar. But most projections have him gone by the time the Chargers’ first selection arrives.

They also have a connection to Gerald Everett, a free agent from the Rams. New Chargers head coach Brandon Staley was the Rams’ defensive coordinator in 2020.

Henry, 26, was a second-round draft choice in 2016 out of Arkansas. He played on a franchise tag of $10.6 million last season.

The Chargers opted not to tag Henry again this year because of salary cap concerns, and now he’s heading for New England.