The Miami Dolphins have had a strong 2023 offseason, adding key veterans to positions of need throughout the roster. They still have some work to do, however, as the NFL free agency period begins to wind down and attention turns toward the NFL Draft at the end of April. Could the Dolphins look to fill a need at the tight end position with a veteran still available in free agency as the calendar reaches the end of March?
The Dolphins currently have three tight ends on the roster, incumbent starter Durham Smythe, new addition Eric Saubert, and developmental player Tanner Conner. Smythe started 15 of the Dolphins’ 17 regular season games, recording 15 receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown in 2022. He serves well as an all-around tight end, someone who can block as well as serve as the emergency option in the passing game when needed. Entering his sixth year in the league and the second-year on a two-year contract he signed last March, Smythe appears to be set to return to the starting role in 2023.
Of course, Smythe being listed as the starter in 2023 was more for his role as a blocker than as a pass catcher, where the Dolphins had Mike Gesicki to serve as the receiving tight end. In 2022, the Dolphins hired former San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike McDaniel as their new head coach and the fit between McDaniel’s offensive system and Gesicki’s playing style never worked itself out during the season. Gesicki, who played on the franchise tag in 2022, signed as a free agent with the New England Patriots this offseason and left a hole in Miami’s roster that needs to be filled.
Miami could look to the Draft to find their next tight end, or they could look to see who is available in free agency still, adding a veteran to the group. They made an attempt to add Irv Smith, Jr., but the veteran signed with the Cincinnati Bengals instead. Who else is still available?
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate is likely the top name on the market still. He was released by the Buccaneers just after free agency began. He appeared in 11 games with one start last season, catching 20 passes for 174 yards.
Geoff Swaim spent the last three years with the Tennessee Titans. He appeared in all 17 regulars season games last year, starting 13 of them, but only caught 12 passes for 58 yards. He would be a good blocking addition to the roster and could help bolster the running attack, but he probably is not filling a hole as a pass catcher.
Adam Shaheen is still on the market after spending the last three years with the Dolphins, including last season when the team thought they had traded him, only to have a knee injury found during the Houston Texans’ physical of him negate the trade, then Miami placed him on injured reserve for the year. The awkwardness of last season’s almost trade and Shaheen having never caught more than 12 passes in a season does not make it likely he would be a high target for the Dolphins this year.
Kyle Rudolph is a two-time Pro Bowl tight end who has had seasons when he caught over 50 passes. The problem is, those years with back in 2018 and earlier. Last season, with the Buccaneers, he appeared in nine games and caught three passes for 28 yards and a touchdown. The prior season, with the New York Giants, he had 26 receptions for 257 yards and a score. Rudolph would provide a veteran presence on the roster and could help develop a younger tight end, but he is not going to be the dominant pass catcher of the group.
The tight end position is not one with a big name still looking for a job in the 2023 free agency period. Miami is tight against the salary cap right now, so any free agent they might be targeting would likely have to be a minimum salary player, again hurting the appeal of signing with the team.
If McDaniel and the Dolphins want to address the tight end position this year, it would appear they are going to have to do it through the Draft.