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Gates gets $22.5 million over six years

The Antonio Gates saga took another surprising
turn Tuesday when the All-Pro tight end agreed to a six-year
contract with the San Diego Chargers.

Despite getting the long-term deal he wanted, Gates still has to
sit out the final two exhibition games and the season-opener
against Dallas on Sept. 11, his punishment for missing a
team-imposed deadline for reporting to training camp.

Gates' new contract with the Chargers is worth $22.5 million over six years, management sources have told ESPN's Chris Mortensen. It includes a $6 million signing bonus and an additional $3.16 million roster bonus in 2006.

Gates' base salaries during the contract that runs through 2011 will be $380,000, $460,000, $2.625 million, $3 million, $3.25 million and $3.625 million.

At one point, his agent reportedly was seeking a three-year
deal, which would have allowed him to become an unrestricted free
agent quicker. The Chargers balked at giving him the chance to do
so.

The Chargers agreed Gates deserved to be paid more than the
$380,000 minimum they were obligated to give him as a third-year
pro, but because he had just the one standout year, they weren't
going to pay him equal to Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs,
who has played in six Pro Bowls. Gates made his Pro Bowl debut last
season.

Gonzalez has a seven-year, $31.5 million deal, including $10
million in guaranteed money. Baltimore's Todd Heap signed a $30
million extension in June that included an $11 million signing
bonus. Alge Crumpler of the Atlanta Falcons has a $26 million deal,
with a $9 million bonus.

"I think I got Antonio Gates money," Gates said. "I think
that was fair enough for me and it's a good situation for me to be
here long term."

Agent Andre Colona said he thought Gates' market value
"obviously was being one of the top two paid tight ends in the
league. But like I said, obviously that was the number I was
reaching for. It was going to take a certain resolve to get to that
point, and he said, 'You know what, 'Dre, don't worry about that,
let's just get what we can get now because I want to be a Charger
and end all this stuff."

Colona refused to say where Gates' deal puts him in the
hierarchy of tight ends.

"I will say that he was comfortable with where we were. He
didn't want to, I guess, go the road to go where we were really
trying to go," Colona said.

On Sunday, Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said
negotiations, which began 10 months ago, were "dead in the
water."

On Tuesday, Smith said: "All of a sudden we got a call and the
contract was done. Sometimes deals are struck in a couple of hours,
sometimes they take 10 months. I wish it were a lot quicker. It
wasn't."

The tone of negotiations apparently changed after Gates reported
Sunday night and signed a $380,000, one-year deal, which is now
replaced with his new contract.

"I sat down with people that cared about me and we talked about
it and I told them it wasn't about me becoming the highest-paid
tight end or me making a whole bunch of money," Gates said. "It
was moreso me wanting to win football games and I wanted to be
around good people."

Gates had a breakout year in 2004, when, in his second season,
he helped the Chargers win the AFC West at 12-4 and return to the
playoffs for the first time in nine seasons. With defenses
struggling to cover the former college basketball star, Gates
caught 13 touchdown passes -- a league record for tight ends -- and
led the Chargers with 81 catches for 964 yards, nearly 20 percent
of their offense.

Gates held out of training camp as the two sides sparred over
contract length and money. In an attempt to break the impasse, the
Chargers sent Colona a letter several days ago ordering the player
to be in camp by Saturday afternoon or be placed on the Roster
Exempt List as soon as he signed, triggering an automatic
three-game suspension.

Gates missed the deadline. He was put on the Roster Exempt List
on Monday, which will cost him one game check.

Smith said he doesn't regret sending the letter.

"Absolutely not," he said. "I'm trying to do what's in the
best interest for the Chargers. I knew the consequences of the
letter. We took a hit, too. We're out our tight end."

Information from Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press was used in this report.