Mike Gesicki has headlined the Miami Dolphins’ tight end room since he entered the league in 2018 and has been one of the more productive receivers at the position since 2019. It was unfortunate to see Gesicki’s production take a major step back in 2022. It could be that his skill set doesn’t fit McDaniels’ offense or that there are too many mouths to feed, either way, he was a non-factor for much of the season.
His unique abilities and prior success almost guarantee that he is due for a substantial pay day-one that is likely to surpass his 2022 franchise tag figure on a yearly basis ($10,931,000). That fact coupled with his vanishing role in the offense means that Miami may be looking elsewhere to fill his position.
Before we get into how and why the Dolphins will replace Gesicki, it could be helpful to take a look back at the 2018 draft that Gesicki was a part of.
A deep Tight End class
The Dolphins needed a tight end coming into that offseason and it seemed likely that Miami would take either Gesicki or Dallas Goedert with their second-round pick. They went with Gesicki at 42 and Goedert would be selected by the Eagles at 49.
A lot of fans are likely frustrated with that decision in retrospect, and they’re likely to feel worse when they see the other tight ends that were available. Here are the top-5 tight ends from that draft, their consensus rankings (link here) heading into that draft, and where they were selected in parenthesis:
34. Dallas Goedert TE | South Dakota State (49)
35. Mike Gesicki TE | Penn State (42)
39. Hayden Hurst TE | South Carolina (25)
63. Mark Andrews TE | Oklahoma (86)
100. Dalton Schultz TE | Stanford (137)
It’s fairly likely that the Gesicki pick had a lot to do with Adam Gase and his preference for the unique athleticism that Mike brought to the table. Gesicki dominated the combine and some of his concerns as a blocker were ignored in favor of that upside.
In hindsight, the Gesicki pick is easy to criticize. Dallas Goedert and Mark Andrews would be really valuable assets in McDaniel’s offense and even Hurst/Schultz would likely be better fits based on how 2022 played out.
With that said, Gesicki does have unique abilities for the position. Whoever picks him up this offseason is likely to have a lot of success with him-assuming they take advantage of those abilities. Sometimes new coaches/schemes come in and the fit just isn’t there, it happens.
Who could replace Gesicki?
Luckily for the Dolphins, this isn’t a bad year to need a tight end. There are a few solid names in free agency and the draft is relatively deep at the position. Let’s start with free agency.
Dalton Schultz, Hayden Hurst, and Austin Hooper are the bigger-name free agents that would make sense for Miami. While a lot of fans are looking at Schultz, that move would surprise me. He’s likely to command north of $12 million per year and that would be a lot of money to pay someone who isn’t going to be a focal point of your offense. No matter who the Dolphins add, their leading receivers in 2023 are going to be Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill (barring injury of course... knock on wood).
For that reason, I would focus on players like Hayden Hurst or Austin Hooper. They shouldn’t break the bank but have shown that they can be reliable run blockers and pass catchers throughout their careers.
The draft has one clearcut top prospect at the position in Michael Mayer of Notre Dame. He isn’t going to light up the combine, but has a very well-rounded game and is likely to be a first-round pick (something the Dolphins don’t have).
That leaves five solid prospects that should be available on day two of the draft: Dalton Kincaid (Utah), Darnell Washington (Georgia), Luke Musgrave (Oregon State), Tucker Kraft (South Dakota State), and Sam LaPorta (Iowa). The two that stand out as most intriguing to me are LaPorta and Washington. LaPorta has had an impressive career and comes out of a program that produced tight ends like George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson, and Noah Fant. He’s not as much of a dual-threat tight end as you would like but could be available in round three (where Miami has two picks).
Washington is a massive dude and had most of his receiving success on play action-something Miami used on 43.1% of Tua Tagovailoa’s dropbacks in 2022 (which led the NFL-per PFF). He’s already solid as a blocker with a ton of room to grow and is way more explosive than anyone should be at his size. He would be an exciting addition to this room if he’s available when Miami selects.
What will the room look like in 2023?
Hunter Long and Durham Smythe should return to their 2022 support roles with Gesicki likely to seek a larger contract in free agency. There are a number of intriguing free agents and draft selections to replace Gesicki (and that doesn’t even include possible trade candidates).
Look for major changes from the position in 2023 and with that more emphasis on tight ends in the offense going forward.