On pace for the best season of his career, Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki is set to hit the open market next spring. In a free-agent tight end class that also includes the likes of Dalton Schultz and Zach Ertz, will Gesicki command a hefty contract? Where are some of Gesicki’s potential landing spots?
Will the Dolphins re-sign Mike Gesicki?
A second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Gesicki has blossomed into a true weapon for the Dolphins’ offense. He’s managed at least 50 receptions and 500 yards in each of the last three seasons. This year, he’s already set a new career-high catch total (64). He’s only 18 yards away from setting a new career mark in yardage.
Calling Gesicki a tight end is a bit of a misnomer — he’s more like an oversized slot receiver. Even at 6’6″, 250 pounds, Gesicki is hardly asked to block or play inline. He’s played 321 snaps in the slot and 152 snaps out wide, both of which are third-most among tight ends. He’s played inline on just 25 snaps, by far the fewest among TEs with regular playing time.
The 26-year-old Gesicki should compete with Schultz to garner the largest free-agent TE contract in 2022. The two have put up comparable numbers over the past two seasons. While Schultz is more of a complete tight end thanks to his blocking ability, he’s also benefited from playing with a more consistent quarterback situation than Gesicki.
Geiscki should target a contract between Austin Hooper’s $10.5 million per year deal with the Browns and Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith’s dueling $12.5 million/season pacts with the Patriots. A four-year, $48 million contract between Gesicki and the Dolphins would probably make sense for both sides. Miami is projected to lead the NFL in 2022 cap space, so they’d easily be able to afford a $10.834 million franchise tag for Gesicki.
Mike Gesicki landing spots
If Gesicki doesn’t stay in Miami, where else could he go? Let’s take a look at a few other possible fits around the NFL.
Can the Tennessee Titans reboot their offense with a TE addition?
The Titans tried to give their offense a boot over the offseason by trading for future Hall of Famer Julio Jones, but the 32-year-old WR simply can’t stay healthy. A.J. Brown is a one-man wrecking machine, but it’s clear Tennessee could use another option in the passing game.
At tight end, Anthony Firkser and Geoff Swaim have combined for 54 receptions for just 410 yards and 2 touchdowns. Firkser has only run 247 routes, 32nd among NFL tight ends. Swaim, meanwhile, has run a route on just 68% of his snaps, an extremely low rate that places him among the league’s blocking-only TEs.
Ryan Tannehill has posted some of his lowest passer ratings this season when targeting the intermediate parts of the field. Gesicki has averaged a 10.1 average depth of target (aDOT) over the past three years, so he could help open up the middle of the Titans’ passing offense. Tennessee only has $11 million in 2022 cap space, so they’d have to make the numbers work. But Gesicki could add a new dimension for Tannehill and Co.
Gesicki could stay in the AFC East with the New York Jets
Corey Davis and Elijah Moore are a nice start. But the Jets could stand to build up their offense even further if they have any hope of Zach Wilson succeeding in Year 2 and beyond. After trading Chris Herndon in the preseason, New York has relied on Ryan Griffin and Tyler Kroft at tight end. Neither has been deployed with any success in the passing attack.
Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is a student of the Shanahan system, and we’ve seen how effective George Kittle has been in the 49ers’ offense. Kittle and Gesicki are wildly different players. Kittle is the best blocking TE in the NFL, while Gesicki isn’t asked to contribute in the run game. But adding a big target like Gesicki could work wonders for Wilson as he attempts to take a leap in his second pro campaign.
The Arizona Cardinals may need a TE if Zach Ertz departs
While Arizona’s offense has taken a step back recently, that shouldn’t overshadow what Zach Ertz has done since coming to the desert. The veteran TE has posted 42 receptions for 449 yards and 3 touchdowns in nine games. But Ertz is a free agent at season’s end and is 31 years old. It might behoove the Cardinals to get younger at the position.
Gesicki would be a workable fit for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. So far in 2021, Arizona has used 4-WR sets a league-leading 145 times, nearly double the frequency of the Jets at No. 2. Again, it’s best to think of Gesicki as an oversized slot receiver. He’d be able to create mismatches for the Cardinals’ offense alongside DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, and — if he’s re-signed — Christian Kirk.
Gesicki could become Trevor Lawrence’s top weapon with the Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars’ pass-catching depth chart didn’t look terrible coming into 2021. Trevor Lawrence had a veteran in Marvin Jones, an ascending WR in DJ Chark, and a chess piece in Laviska Shenault. At least, that’s what it looked like on paper. Jones has been a disappointment, Chark suffered a season-ending injury, and Shenault has disappeared. At times, Laquon Treadwell and Jamal Agnew have each served as Lawrence’s de facto No. 1 WR.
Jacksonville did trade for tight end Dan Arnold in September, but Gesicki would be a clear upgrade. They are actually relatively similar players, as neither spends much time on the line. If the Jaguars hire a creative offensive coach, they could figure out how to deploy Gesicki and Arnold together. Lawrence deserves better weapons, and Gesicki would be a solid first step towards Jacksonville competing in the AFC South.
The Carolina Panthers could use another playmaker
The Panthers will have a long list of needs this offseason, with quarterback and offensive line among them. But Carolina shouldn’t shy away from adding more talent to its receiving corps. DJ Moore has been solid again this season, but Robby Anderson has been lackluster, while the Panthers don’t have a TE contributor right now. They did select Tommy Tremble in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but he’s managed only 18 receptions this season.
We don’t know who Carolina’s offensive coordinator will be next season. Jeff Nixon is currently in that role, but it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll remain there in 2022. Depending on the type of scheme the Panthers implement next year, Gesicki could be enticing. Carolina was at their best when they had four viable pass-catching threats in Moore, Anderson, Christian McCaffrey, and Curtis Samuel.
Samuel and Gesicki are obviously different players. But flooding the roster with receivers would benefit whoever plays quarterback for the Panthers next season. The Panthers’ OL needs work, but Carolina could probably get by with even a slightly below-average front five if their next QB had enough options in the passing attack.