SAN DIEGO - Antonio Gates didn't meet the San Diego Chargers' ultimatum to sign a contract by Saturday afternoon, meaning the defending AFC West champions will be without their All-Pro tight end for at least the season opener against Dallas.
In an attempt to break an impasse in negotiations, the Chargers ordered Gates to show up by Saturday afternoon and sign a contract. Gates' agent and the Chargers continued to negotiate up to the 12:30 p.m. deadline, but failed to agree on a multiyear deal. Gates has refused to sign the $380,000, one-year contract the team tendered him as an exclusive-rights free agent.
Once Gates does sign a contract, he will be put on the Roster Exempt List, automatically triggering a three-game suspension. That means he will at a minimum miss the team's final two exhibition games and the season opener against the Cowboys on Sept. 11 at Qualcomm Stadium. If he hasn't signed by Thursday, he'll also miss the Sept. 18 game at Denver.
Gates became a star in just his second NFL season, catching 13 touchdown passes - a league record for tight ends - and leading the Chargers with 81 catches for 964 yards. He accounted for about 20 percent of the Chargers' offense, a big reason why they went 12-4 and reached the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons.
Defenses had a tough time trying to cover the 6-foot-4 former college basketball standout, a power forward at Kent State. He didn't play football in college.
Gates, agent Andre Colona and general manager A.J. Smith didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.