clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Are Dolphins and Mike Gesicki headed toward a separation?

Miami Dolphins Training Camp Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins are in the early stages of their 2022 training camp, just starting their preparations for the regular season. The team has high hopes for this year, especially with the offensive additions of players like Tyreek Hill, Cedric Wilson, Jr., Chase Edmonds, and Raheem Mostert. The start of the Mike McDaniel era at head coach has the team looking to be explosive, using ridiculous amounts of speed to outgun opponents while a defense that looked strong last year moves into elite levels this season. As everything feels new and fresh at the start of the year, could this also be the end of tight end Mike Gesicki’s time with the Dolphins?

The Dolphins placed the franchise tag on Gesicki this offseason, ensuring they keep their 2018 second-round pick for the 2022 season. However, it means he is not under contract beyond this season and there is nothing they can do to remedy that until after the year. Gesicki is consistently listed among the top pass-catching tight ends in the game, but his strength as a pass catcher is offset by a seeming weakness as an in-line blocker.

In McDaniel’s offensive system, the tight end needs to be an all-around player. It appears Gesicki is being used in that role, and it could hold him back some this season. A player who is used to playing more like a big wide receiver than as a sixth offensive lineman, Gesicki is not seeing his typical role early in training camp.

“I don’t think I took one snap from a receiver stance today,” Gesicki said after Saturday’s practice. “So it’s definitely different, but I mean it is what it is, and I’m excited about it. I’m looking forward to another challenge and another opportunity. This is my fifth year, my fifth different offensive coordinator. It could be like six if you count last year’s interesting situation. So I mean you have a bunch of different guys calling plays. This is my third head coach, so it’s been a whole bunch of stuff. I’m just excited to put my head down, work, learn a new system and keep at it and continue to work.”

Gesicki will be looking to have a stellar 2022 campaign, not just professionally but personally. He comes into the season on a one-year contract with the possibility of earning himself a lot of money on his next contract. Gesicki has always been a player who wants to get better, and now he has another reason to do just that.

“I was talking with him just about the scheme, about ‘Embo’ (Assistant Head Coach/Tight Ends Jon Embree) and how he operates and Coach McDaniel and all that kind of stuff,” Gesicki said of working with San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle at the second-annual “Tight End U” last month. Kittle has excelled in the 49ers offensive system, the same system McDaniel is brining to Miami after having been the 49ers offensive coordinator. “So you try to just pick everybody’s brain out there. Obviously, him being in this system and having success in it – obviously, he is one of, honestly, the best blocking tight ends in the league, and then you see what he gets off of it in the pass game because of it. So that’s the most important part, and I’m going to keep working at it and keep doing it.”

As for playing this season on the franchise tag, Gesicki said, “It’s a business. The team is going to do what’s best for the team, and then you have to go out and perform and do what you do. There’s not really much else to say. I’m not a big’ complain about it, make a big deal about it’ (guy).”

Laughing, he added, “Although it seems like the guys do get paid a lot of money, so maybe I should have. But I’m just going to keep coming to work (and) keep doing what I’m doing.”

Was there a time after the franchise tag was used when Gesicki though there was a long-term deal close to being completed? “No,” he simply said.

Did it upset him? “No,” he again replied when asked.

Of course, this is day four of training camp. The team could simply be using the early part of the season to get players used to new things. The team is making sure quarterback Tua Tagovalioa and wide receiver Tyreek Hill are on the same page as Hill arrive from the Kansas City Chiefs. Tagovailoa and Gesicki already have that relationship. This is a perfect time to get the basics of the blocking schemes down for the tight end while forcing passes to Hill. Later in the summer, we could see more passing routes for Gesicki as the team opens up the playbook a little more.

That said, it does sound like McDaniel is looking to Gesicki to be more on the line and work more as a blocker than has been asked of him in the past.

“I will say I think it’s important to talk to the player – in my experience – to talk to the player candidly, understanding his situation,” McDaniel said Saturday of Gesicki and the tight end playing on the franchise tag. “I talked to Mike early and said, ‘Hey, listen. This is something that’s best for the Dolphins.’ I’m fortunate that I don’t do this alone and that Chris Grier gets to handle all the stuff that’s not coaching and be the general manager so that I can kind of stay removed from that, but I can also identify with – every player wants to have a long-term max contract, so here’s what we do. We try day after day to get your game to the best of its ability so that at the end of the year, Mike, you make that franchise tag look like a discount because what that means is that you have been playing at a level that makes the Dolphins better and that also improves your socioeconomic status, I guess, for the long term. So everyone’s kind of – it is what it is. It’s a business, so if you just approach it as, okay, this is what it is this year. Let’s use this and here are your goals and acknowledge it and it ends up being a blip in the radar.”

McDaniel continued to speak about Gesicki and his role in the offense, especially when it comes to blocking. “Everybody is trying to execute our core foundation in the run and pass game and within that we’re also making sure that we’re just not taking leaps of faith; we’re finding every player’s skillset how we can best utilize it and then put them in situations to showcase that,” the coach explained. “Everybody knows that his ball skills and range are outstanding. That helps for separating defenders. We’re working on – he’ll be the first one to say it – he wants to attack blocking with a different severity than he ever has before and he’s fortunate and we’re fortunate that guess what, his position coach Jon Embree, will settle for nothing less. So all those things are something that he’s definitely embracing and I’m excited to see what it looks like when it’s all said and done.”

Gesicki explained of the discussion he had with McDaniel, saying, “It’s not like we sat down and they were like, ‘Hey, Mike, you want to block?’ And I was like, ‘Sure.’ I mean it was like, ‘I know what offense we’re getting into and I know who we hired to be our coach and what scheme we’re going to be running, so I have to go out there and in order to make plays in the pass game in this offense, you have to be able to go make plays in the run game as well.’ So I’m working on it every single day and continue to improve.

“Like I said, we’re wearing these right now,” Gesicki continued, showing the shells the team is wearing ahead of getting into fully-padded practices. “It doesn’t mean anything. You have to go out and make the plays when you put the pads on and make the plays on Sundays, ultimately is what really counts.”

It is those plays on Sunday this year that could decide Gesicki’s future with the Dolphins. A player who is an elite receiving threat as a tight end but struggles as a blocker may not fit the offensive scheme for McDaniel. Five years into an NFL career is a hard time to suddenly expect a huge change in Gesicki’s game. Add in all the new weapons Miami has on offense, and Gesicki could find himself the odd-man out in the offense.

As the Dolphins start training camp and get ready for the start of the 2022 regular season, could this also be the start of a split with Gesicki?