Free Agency

Free Agent Forecast: Marcedes Lewis


The Chargers are bracing for a complete makeover of the tight end position. The team’s top-four veterans — Antonio Gates, Ladarius Greene, John Phillips and David Johnson — are all slated to become unrestricted free agents. Gates is likely to return, but the other three face less certain futures.

One intriguing candidate for filling out the depth chart is Marcedes Lewis, a former first-round pick who has spent his entire 10-year career with the Jaguars.

Lewis is a fine complementary receiver. He has more than 300 receptions and 4,000 yards on his résumé, including a memorable 2010 campaign when he exploded for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, if the Chargers were to bring him in at this point in his career, it would be for his ability as a blocker.

Lewis (6’6”, 275 lbs.) is one of the game’s best blocking tight ends. He has the balance, strong base and brawny hands to function as a sixth offensive lineman, similar to former Chargers tight end Brandon Manumaleuna.

In 2015, Lewis earned a pass-blocking grade of 82.5 from Pro Football Focus; only two tight ends who played 400-plus passing snaps graded out better (Charles Clay at 84.4 and Greg Olsen at 83.8).

Lewis’ run-blocking grade was not as strong (53.6), but was still better than David Johnson (49.0) and John Phillips (47.4), who served as San Diego’s blocking tight ends a season ago.

“Lewis is one of the best blocking tight ends in football, eclipsed only by Rob Gronkowski,” said Charlie Bernstein, the publisher of “There was actually some thoughts about him adding 20 pounds and trying to play right tackle.”

Lewis’ receiving grade, 70.7, shows he can still get it done as a complementary receiver, despite finishing last season with just 226 yards and no touchdowns (the first time he was kept out of the end zone since 2011).

Although his best days are behind him, Lewis is still a durable performer (appearing in all 16 games in 2015) and an excellent clubhouse presence who can mentor Asante Cleveland and possibly Green if the latter is re-signed.

“As a locker room presence, he’s an absolute professional who helps a lot of the young players,” said Bernstein, who has covered the team since before Lewis arrived in 2006. “Lewis is a tireless worker who doesn’t take a play or practice rep off. He’s a great example to the young guys.”

Although Lewis is a tight end, he reminds me a lot of former Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer. Both players are former first-round picks that never emerged as Pro Bowl talents, but still carved out nice careers because of their tenacity and toughness. Both players are incredibly physical, as well, which is a descriptor that can only be applied to a handful of current Chargers players.

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley wants to bring back Lewis as the No. 2 tight end. However, there are indications the UCLA product is interested in finishing his career back in California. In fact, he once told Bernstein in an interview he’d love to return home to California at some point in his career.

“Now that he’s a free agent and has already made plenty of money, I believe that location will play a factor in his decisions,” Bernstein said. “He would be a good fit in San Diego.”

Lewis earned $2.65 in salary last season. The Chargers will need to beat that number to get him to leave the only franchise he’s ever known, but a three-year, $10 million contract could make a lot of sense for both parties.

For more on our “Free Agent Forecast” series, join the discussion in our Fan Forums!

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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