Source: Dolphins’ Mike Gesicki, Browns’ David Njoku could receive franchise tag ahead of deadline

Source: Dolphins’ Mike Gesicki, Browns’ David Njoku could receive franchise tag ahead of deadline

The tight end class in 2022 NFL free agency is full of notable names. But a pair of standouts — the Dolphins’ Mike Gesicki and the Browns’ David Njoku — could receive the franchise tag ahead of the March 8 deadline, leaving the rest of the group to cash in on long-term deals.

Update: On March 7, it was reported that the #Browns are placing the franchise tag on TE David Njoku.

Mike Gesicki and David Njoku could be franchise tagged

Both Gesicki and Njoku are viewed as candidates to be franchise-tagged by their respective teams ahead of next week’s deadline, a league source who was granted anonymity told Pro Football Network on Monday. The tag is valued at around $11 million for tight ends this season.

According to the source, $11 million “is a very reasonable number in the current tight end market.” If either player were to be tagged, their clubs would have additional time and leverage to work out a long-term deal.

Are Njoku and Gesicki worth the tag?

According to Spotrac, Gesicki’s annual value is right around the $11 million mark. That annual average would place him sixth among tight ends. It would also put him in worthy contention of the franchise tag. The Dolphins have a league-leading $60.2 million in projected salary cap space, so he’d fit well within that total, even on the tag.

Gesicki has improved his numbers every year throughout his rookie contract. Last season, he caught 73 passes for 780 yards and 2 touchdowns. At 26, Gesicki is just entering his prime. He is ranked as PFN NFL analyst Dalton Miller’s 22nd-best free agent this offseason.

Njoku, on the other hand, is projected at a $6.7 million annual value, according to Spotrac. That value is well below the franchise tag slot for tight ends. Njoku has tag-teamed with Austin Hooper over the past two seasons. Hooper signed a five-year, $44 million deal in 2020.

Njoku, a 2017 first-round pick, has taken a backseat to Hooper on offense. The Browns also drafted red-zone weapon Harrison Bryant in the fourth round in 2020. Njoku caught 36 passes for 475 yards and 4 touchdowns last season.

How would tags for Njoku and Gesicki impact the market?

If Njoku and Gesicki are off the board, teams will still have plenty of options at tight end. Zach Ertz of the Arizona Cardinals, Dalton Schultz of the Dallas Cowboys, and C.J. Uzomah of the Cincinnati Bengals will be among the notable names left on the market.

Of that trio, Schultz is probably the most likely to either set the market or earn a top-five salary at the position. Just 25, Schultz is coming off back-to-back stellar campaigns. He caught 78 passes for 808 yards and 8 touchdowns last year. That performance looks even better when compared to Njoku’s 2021 output.

The Eagles traded Ertz to the Cardinals in October. He proved to be a reliable target for Kyler Murray down the stretch of the season, and he bounced back after a forgettable final 18 months in Philly. Ertz finished the season with 74 catches for 763 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Uzomah was among the unspoken heroes in the Bengals’ run to the Super Bowl. In 2021, he recorded 49 catches for 493 yards and 5 touchdowns. His work during the postseason run should also help his outlook on the market.

Other names to watch on the tight end market include Robert Tonyan of the Green Bay Packers, Evan Engram of the New York Giants, and Tyler Conklin of the Minnesota Vikings.