The 8-time Pro Bowl selection had expressed wanting to return for another year to play at the end of last season, according to ESPN.com's Adam Schefter. He played 478 snaps, finishing with 30 catches for 316 receiving yards and three touchdowns; only his rookie season, 2003, produced more meager numbers.
The Chargers also signed tight end Virgil Green as a free agent from Denver last month.
Asked about Gates at the start of the team's offseason training program two weeks ago, Gates' longtime quarterback and friend, Philip Rivers, said he wasn't sure what would happen.
It was nice to see the Chargers get a defensive tackle and they've stuck to a great plan of loading up on defensive players in this draft. We all know our friendship.
"You'd love for him to get one more shot to be with us and go make a run at it", Rivers said.
Gates has been more productive for the Chargers than three Hall of Fame receivers: Lance Alworth, Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow.
Gates posted 100-plus receiving yards in 21 games throughout his career, one of just seven tight ends in National Football League history with 20-plus games of at least 100 yards receiving. I feel like on this one, Chargers fans will just have to trust Telesco's ability to find the right player.
But Los Angeles is loaded with pass-catching talent, including Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen and a full complement of wideouts.