Football

Chargers give Gates highest TE deal ever

Antonio Gates has caught plenty of big passes for the San Diego Chargers, and on Wednesday he hauled in the biggest contract ever given to an NFL tight end.

Gates agreed to a $36.175 million, five-year contract extension, with $20.4 million guaranteed, according to a person familiar with the deal.

A college basketball star at Kent State, Gates blossomed from a rookie free agent in 2003 to a superstar who is a three-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowl selection.

With three other star players unhappy about their contracts, talks with Gates apparently intensified this week. Gates and other veterans are due to report to training camp today, with the first full-squad practice on Friday.

“It’s always good to get it out of the way,” Gates said in a statement released by the team. “The goal is to win a championship. We all are human and it becomes a distraction even though you might not want it to be. It’s always great to be able to go ahead and do what you need to do and get it out of the way.”

It wasn’t clear if getting Gates’ deal done would help sign restricted free agents Marcus McNeill, Vincent Jackson and Shawne Merriman.

McNeill, the left tackle who protects quarterback Philip Rivers’ blind side, and Jackson, a Pro Bowl wide receiver, are unhappy that they haven’t been given long-term deals and are expected to hold out through training camp and the season’s first 10 games. They are expected to return for the final six games to accrue another season toward unrestricted free agency.

Jackson and McNeill were tendered one-year deals at just more than $3 million each. When they didn’t sign the offers by June 15, the Chargers were entitled to offer them their same salaries as 2009, resulting in a loss of about $2.5 million each.

Merriman hasn’t signed his tender for $3.269 million, but the outside linebacker was due a 10 percent raise, which would put his 2010 pay at about the tender amount.

NOT ENOUGH CASH

Several retired football players are suing the attorneys who won a $26 million settlement from the NFL Players Association on their behalf, claiming the should have extracted even more money from the union.

The former players including Paul Hornug, John Brodie and Marvin Cobb.

BRUNELL A JET

The New York Jets signed veteran quarterback Mark Brunell, who backed up Drew Brees last season for the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, to a two-year contract.

The move had been expected for several months as New York sought an experienced quarterback to serve as a backup to Mark Sanchez. The Jets couldn’t sign the former University of Washington player until free agency restrictions were lifted last week on the final eight playoff teams.

SIGNINGS AND SUCH

The Carolina Panthers came to terms with second-round pick Jimmy Clausen on a four-year contract that includes $2.53 million in guarantees for the former Notre Dame quarterback. … First-round draft choice Devin McCourty, a cornerback out of Rutgers, signed a five-year deal with the New England Patriots worth $13.2 million with $7.825 million guaranteed. … The St. Louis Rams signed second-round draft pick Rodger Saffold, a tackle expected to be a cornerstone of the offensive line. … The Washington Redskins will open training camp today without offensive lineman Mike Williams, who is out for the year after a blood clot was discovered in his lungs. … Defensive tackle Torell Troup, a second-round pick, agreed to a contract with the Buffalo Bills expected to be for four years and about $4.5 million, with about $2.6 million guaranteed. … The Chiefs have signed both of their second-round draft picks, wide receiver Dexter McCluster and defensive back Javier Arenas.

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