Mike Gesicki

Bengals To Sign TE Mike Gesicki

Cincinnati retained tight end Drew Sample on Monday, and the team is now set to make an outside addition at the position. The Bengals have agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $3.25MM with Mike Gesicki, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.

Despite a down year on the franchise tag in 2022 and being trapped in a mess of a Patriots offense last season, Gesicki is not too far removed from quality production in Miami. His 2020 and ’21 seasons prompted the Dolphins to apply the tag; the Bengals will make a low-risk bet on upside to accompany the Sample deal.

More of a slot player than a multipurpose tight end, Gesicki surpassed 700 receiving yards during Tua Tagovailoa‘s first two seasons. Gesicki’s presence during inconsistent Tagovailoa seasons helped influence Mike McDaniel‘s regime to unholster the tag in 2022, and while the Penn State alum did not prove a fit in the 49ers-derived scheme, he has shown quality form — his post-TD Griddy work aside — in the recent past.

Gesicki caught six touchdown passes in 2020 and added a career-high 780 receiving yards the following season. Over the past two years, the former second-round pick has combined for 606 yards. Hence this low-level agreement. Gesicki also did not find much of a market last year, settling for $4.5MM from the Patriots. Dalton Schultz, Hunter Henry and Noah Fant fared much better than he did this offseason, suggesting some pessimism on the receiving-oriented TE. The Bengals do offer some hope at a value-reestablishing season.

Barring another addition, Cincinnati will have Gesicki in place as its top receiving tight end. The Bengals have not received Gesicki-level production from a pass-catching tight end since Tyler Eifert‘s non-injury-marred work several years ago, despite the team taking fliers on Hayden Hurst and Irv Smith Jr. following C.J. Uzomah‘s 2022 Jets signing. Uzomah and Hurst are still available, making reunions something to monitor. For now, Cincy is going with a Gesicki-Sample duo.

Patriots Notes: Dugger, Cunningham, Offseason

The Patriots have 15 impending unrestricted free agents, a group that’s headlined by safety Kyle Dugger. The former second-round pick has turned into one of New England’s most dependable defenders, but there’s a good chance he hits free agency after the season.

According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, “prior extension talks didn’t generate much momentum” towards a long-term deal, leading to the belief that Dugger wants to test the market. The Patriots are armed with a bit of leverage, as the team could choose to slap Dugger with the franchise tag. Doug Kyed previously noted that the franchise tag could be in play if the two sides don’t agree to a long-term deal. The 2023 franchise tag value for safeties was at $14.46MM.

Dugger previously expressed an interest in sticking around New England, but there haven’t been many updates this season regarding an extension. The fourth-year player has started all 14 games for the Patriots in 2023, collecting 88 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and two interceptions.

More notes out of New England…

  • There’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding Bill Belichick‘s future in New England. Regardless of who’s running the Patriots front office this offseason, Doug Kyed of the Boston Globe expects the organization to spend big. Thanks to the league’s cash-spending floor, the Patriots will need to spend at least $98MM to hit the $216MM requirement. The front office should have far more money to play with; if the Patriots take a similar approach to their pricey 2021 offseason, Kyed projects that they could commit upwards of $194MM to free agency (especially via signing bonuses).
  • Belichick told reporters that the Patriots attempted to keep quarterback Malik Cunningham before he landed on the Ravens’ active roster. The undrafted rookie spent the entire season shuffling between New England’s active roster and practice squad, with the organization experimenting with the player at both quarterback and wide receiver. As Reiss notes, the Ravens ultimately sold Cunningham on their system and the presence of Lamar Jackson.
  • Considering the Patriots’ struggles at the quarterback position this season, it was a surprise that Cunningham never got a shot to run the offense. Offensive tackle Trent Brown told Sophie Weller of AtoZ.com that “everybody on the team” thought the rookie should get a look under center. Brown also admitted that Baltimore was an ideal spot for his former teammate. “It’s funny because I told him months ago if they ever called, if anybody, that’s the team where he should go,” Brown said of the Ravens. “It was almost like I saw it coming…And that’s really good for him to actually get a real chance to play his real position.”
  • Tight end Mike Gesicki inked a one-year deal with the Patriots this offseason, but things haven’t gone as planned during his first season with the team. Through 14 games, the veteran has hauled in 22 catches for 189 yards and one touchdown, and he’s on pace for his lowest offensive output since his rookie campaign. Despite the struggles, Gesicki is remaining positive about his experience in New England. “Control what you can control, coming in here every day and having a good attitude and being positive and enjoying it,” the tight end told Reiss. “Because at the end of the day, you’re playing in the NFL, meeting new guys, and playing for the greatest coach to ever do it. So there’s a lot of things you can take away from it. And we still have another four games. You never know how we can finish this thing and have some bright spots.”

Patriots Notes: Judon, Gesicki, Cunningham, Flowers

We’ve got more details on Matthew Judon‘s reworked deal with the Patriots, per ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter). The pass rusher’s revamped contract includes “more 2023 guarantees and upside” for one of New England’s top defenders.

Specifically, Judon got a $7MM signing bonus while seeing his 2023 base salary drop from $11MM to $7MM. His 2023 incentives increased from $500K to $3MM while his $1MM in per-game bonuses stay the same. That all results in a cap hit of $16.44MM.

More simply, Judon got an effective $3MM raise in his 2023 base pay (which is reflected in the $7MM signing bonus, not the base salary) and a $2.5MM raise via incentives, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).

As we noted earlier this month, Judon had some of his 2024 money pushed up to 2023, setting the stage for more drama next offseason. In a telling sign, Volin points out that the last time the Patriots accommodated this type of cap machination was in 2020 with Stephon Gilmore. New England ended up trading the star cornerback the following year.

More notes out of New England…

  • One of the Patriots’ biggest offseason acquisitions suffered an injury during practice this week. Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter), Mike Gesicki suffered a “mild dislocated shoulder.” Despite the injury, Rapoport notes that there’s hope the tight end will be active for Week 1. Following a five-year stint with the Dolphins to begin his career, Gesicki inked a one-year deal worth up to $9MM with New England this offseason. The veteran is expected to often play alongside fellow TE Hunter Henry in the Patriots’ offense this season.
  • Veteran offensive lineman Riley Reiff signed with the Patriots this offseason, and while he’s destined for a role in the starting lineup, it remains to be seen exactly where he slots in. As Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald writes, Reiff has played both right guard and right tackle during camp. The 34-year-old’s role probably won’t be solidified until we get clarity on some of the Patriots’ other linemen, including Michael Onwenu (PUP), Calvin Anderson (NFI), Kody Russey (injured) and Cole Strange (injured).
  • Undrafted rookie QB Malik Cunningham impressed during training camp and the Patriots’ first preseason game, and Volin writes that the organization has no choice but to roster the Louisville product as a third QB behind Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. As Volin notes, the Patriots signed Cunningham with the hope that he could be “another Julian Edelman” and transform from college quarterback to NFL wideout. Cunningham mostly worked with receivers in the spring, but Volin observes that the rookie has taken more and more reps under center and has clearly supplanted Trace McSorley as the organization’s third QB.
  • Trey Flowerssecond stint in New England will see him playing on a $1.165MM salary ($50K guaranteed), per Yates (on Twitter). The veteran defensive end can earn another $510K in per-game bonuses, plus a potential $825K in not-likely-to-be-earned incentives. This leads to a max value of $2.5MM, and Flowers will be attached to a $1.285MM cap hit.

AFC East Notes: Floyd, Patriots, Dolphins

Over the past two offseasons, the Bills have added both the Super Bowl LVI-winning Rams’ top edge rushers. Leonard Floyd‘s deal did not move close to the Von Miller ballpark, with the Bills guaranteeing the younger defensive end $7MM. The incentives that could bump Floyd’s deal to $9MM are now known as well. They are each sack-based. Floyd can earn $500K bumps by reaching the eight- and 10-sack plateaus, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. If Floyd registers 12 sacks — which would be a career-high total — he can add $1MM to his base pay. Over the past three seasons, Floyd has hit the first benchmark three times (9.5 sacks in 2021, nine in ’22) and the second threshold once (10.5 sacks in 2020). The Bills tacked on three void years to the deal to keep Floyd’s cap number at $2.6MM.

The Bills began talking to Floyd just before the draft, per GM Brandon Beane, who adds (via the Buffalo News’ Katherine Fitzgerald) Miller led the way in recruiting the former top-10 pick. Floyd turned down at least one more lucrative offer to join Miller and Gregory Rousseau in Buffalo. With Miller now aiming to return in Week 1 after rehabbing an ACL tear, the Floyd addition becomes more interesting given the pair’s production together in Los Angeles.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Although Bill O’Brien‘s Patriots past undoubtedly helped him take over as offensive coordinator, but the former Texans HC is using concepts from his most recent gig as he installs his offense. O’Brien is adding pieces from the Alabama offense he ran, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required). This stands to be good news for Mac Jones, who starred at Alabama in 2020. While Tua Tagovailoa‘s Crimson Tide successor did not play for O’Brien in college, he helped the incoming Alabama OC with the playbook on his way out in 2021. Considering Jones’ issues with the Patriots’ Matt Patricia– and Joe Judge-run offense in 2022, O’Brien’s arrival is shaping up as a significant step forward. Jones looks far more comfortable thus far in O’Brien’s offense, Howe adds.
  • A period during the Patriots’ recent OTA sessions may shed some early light on Mike Gesicki‘s New England role. With other tight ends staying on one field to work an inside-run drill, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes Gesicki was working with the Pats’ wide receivers on another field. Gesicki is not known for his run-blocking ability, which became an issue in Mike McDaniel‘s Miami offense last season, but he has long been a proven pass catcher. Lining up as a receiver will not be foreign to Gesicki, though it is still a bit early to determine the five-year Dolphin’s true role with his new team.
  • The Dolphins initially came into the offseason with a goal not to devote much money to their backup quarterback spot, but Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes they became “smitten” with Mike White. Miami added White early during the legal tampering period, giving the ex-Jets starter a two-year, $8MM deal ($4.5MM guaranteed). It is interesting the Dolphins would have considered skimping at QB2, considering how Tagovailoa’s injury trouble hijacked their promising 2022 season. But White (seven starts from 2021-22) is now in Teddy Bridgewater‘s former role. White, however, has also dealt with multiple injuries over the past two years. Skylar Thompson and rookie UDFA James Blackman are the other Miami QBs.
  • James Robinson‘s Patriots release came after the team included three injury waivers in his contract, Breer tweets. This rare protection measure included waivers on both Robinson’s knees and his left Achilles. This since-scrapped contract — Robinson has cleared waivers — illustrates the ex-Jaguars starter’s lack of options. Robinson, who saw a torn Achilles halt his early-career surge in December 2021, is facing an uncertain NFL future. The 24-year-old back has yet to earn much, either. Robinson totaled a rookie UDFA-record 1,414 scrimmage yards in 2020 but spent his first three seasons attached to league-minimum salaries.

AFC East Notes: Ramsey, Patriots, Hardman

A year after acquiring Tyreek Hill and Bradley Chubb via trade, the Dolphins added another standout in Jalen Ramsey. Miami became a destination for Ramsey, whom Albert Breer of SI.com notes had zeroed in on landing with the AFC East club. Sean McVay met with Ramsey in January and informed him the Rams would explore trade options, mentioning the team would explore a deal as a way to restock its draft capital and reduce costs. Rams GM Les Snead called teams two weeks before the Combine to gauge interest, and after Dolphins GM Chris Grier confirmed his team might be, Vic Fangio provided a positive opinion of Ramsey’s place in his defense.

After Ramsey’s agent informed him about a Miami deal, the All-Pro cornerback instructed his representative to make sure he ended up there. The Rams may not have traded Ramsey to the Dolphins just because he wanted to be there, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets, but they did want him out of the NFC. Snead’s price point was initially too high for the Dolphins, per Breer, but the sides settled on a package of a third-round pick and tight end Hunter Long. A far cry from what the Rams sent the Jaguars for Ramsey in 2019 — two first-round picks and a fourth — but the Dolphins now have the eighth-year veteran on the roster and have since adjusted his contract.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • The Patriots discussed DeAndre Hopkins with the Cardinals early this offseason, per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, but they backed off due to Arizona’s ask (subscription required). The Cardinals are rumored to be seeking a second-round pick and change here. The NFC West team is not expected to land that, as Howe adds other teams believe the Cards want to dump Hopkins’ salary ($19.45MM in 2023). The Bills and Chiefs are now the closest links to the former All-Pro wideout.
  • Mecole Hardman committed to the Jets after Aaron Rodgers indicated he wanted to be traded to New York, but the ex-Chiefs wideout said (via ESPN’s Rich Cimini) the four-time MVP’s intentions did not affect his decision. While it would seem that would have at least moved the needle a bit — compared to a world in which Zach Wilson was on track for a third QB1 Jets season, at least — Hardman said he was excited to play with Garrett Wilson and Allen Lazard. Hardman added (via the New York Post’s Brian Costello) the Jets showed interest throughout his free agency, which ended with a one-year deal worth up to $6.5MM. Hardman did not elaborate on a Chiefs offer to bring him back, but he seemed to confirm the defending champions’ previously reported plan to move on.
  • A faction of the Patriots‘ locker room voiced support for Bailey Zappe during last season’s brief QB controversy, Devin McCourty confirmed during a WEEI interview (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss). “It was just a back and forth, which to me, spoke more about what we had on offense than the quarterback,” McCourty said. “We never were solidified as an offensive group that guys had full confidence in anything we were doing. There was never true hope.” The Pats, who regressed on offense in 2022, have since rehired Bill O’Brien as OC. While Mac Jones won his job back amid a dysfunctional season, the Pats will give Zappe a chance to push him this year.
  • The incentives in Mike Gesicki‘s one-year, $4.5MM Patriots contract include $300K bumps starting at the 40-reception mark, Doug Kyed of AtoZSports.com tweets. Gesicki could collect $1.2MM if he reaches 70 catches in 2023. There are also up to $1.2MM in available yardage incentives, with that escalator package starting at 450 yards and ending at 750. Playing-time incentives are also included in the package.
  • Up to $4MM in incentives are present in Riley Reiff‘s one-year, $5MM deal. He will earn $800K by playing 53% of the Pats’ offensive snaps, per Kyed (on Twitter). These figures decrease the higher the snap rate goes, but Reiff can earn all $4.5MM by reaching an 80% snap rate.

Patriots To Sign TE Mike Gesicki

5:17pm: The Patriots will land Gesicki for just $4.5MM in base value, AtoZsports.com’s Doug Kyed tweets. While the ex-Dolphin has another $4.5MM available via incentives, this base is less than half the money he made on the tag in 2022. The former second-round pick will see $3.5MM guaranteed.

8:52am: Two of this market’s top pass catchers available will end up in New England. After agreeing to terms with JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Patriots are adding Mike Gesicki to their 2023 equation.

The former Dolphins tight end agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth up to $9MM, Adam Schefter and Field Yates of ESPN.com report. Gesicki will join a Patriots team that just traded one of its recent big-ticket tight end acquisitions — Jonnu Smith — to the Falcons.

Friday morning’s agreement will reunite Gesicki with new Pats offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, whom Yates notes recruited the talented tight end back when he was head coach at Penn State. Gesicki’s Nittany Lions career ended up landing him on the second-round radar, leading to a Dolphins 2018 investment. O’Brien, however, never ended up coaching Gesicki at the Big Ten school. He soon left for his Texans HC gig in 2014.

While Dalton Schultz has not joined a team yet, Gesicki’s deal does not match his 2022 salary on the franchise tag. Jessie Bates scored a monster payday from the Falcons, while Orlando Brown Jr. accepted a Bengals deal with a lower AAV compared to what the Chiefs offered before last summer’s tag deadline. But the talented tackle still received $31MM guaranteed. Gesicki will be tied to a “prove it” deal following his disappointing season on the tag.

Despite tagging Gesicki at the $10.9MM tight end price last year, the Dolphins diminished his role. After back-to-back 700-plus-yard receiving seasons, Gesicki managed just 32 catches for 362 yards. Gesicki’s targets plummeted from 112 in 2021 to 52 last season — 28th among tight ends. But Gesicki’s 1,483 yards from 2020-21 ranked fifth among tight ends in that span. The Patriots will pair Gesicki with Hunter Henry, and the former’s deal will not cost them what it did to add Smith two years ago.

Even before last season, it was easy to see Gesicki would not be an optimal fit in Mike McDaniel‘s offense. The former profiles as a big wide receiver, and his role minimization came as McDaniel sought a tight end with better blocking skills. Bill Belichick categorized Gesicki as a big wideout when asked about facing him in the past, and it will be safe to assume he and O’Brien are planning to capitalize on the 6-foot-6 tight end’s receiving skills more than McDaniel did in 2022.

Gesicki, 27, came into the 2022 offseason with more momentum; he likely would have scored a multiyear deal had the Dolphins not tagged him. The Patriots will gauge his fit, and Gesicki will need to fare better in 2023 in order to score a bigger guarantee on the 2024 market. Or, the Patriots, who are entering Year 3 with Henry, could end up working out an extension. They will have exclusive negotiating rights with the former trade candidate until March 2024.

2023 Top 50 NFL Free Agents

Super Bowl LVII provided the latest example of the value free agency can bring. The Chiefs revamped their receiving corps on last year’s market, while the Eagles acquired three defensive starters — including sack leader Haason Reddick. The Jaguars also used a March 2022 splurge to ignite their surprising surge to the divisional round.

Beginning with the legal tampering period, which starts at 3pm CT on Monday, and continuing with the official start to free agency (3pm Wednesday), the next several days represent a highlight on the NFL calendar. Which teams will change their 2023 outlooks for the better next week?

While the 2023 free agent class has absorbed its share of body blows and indeed lacks depth at certain spots, a few positions will bring waves of starter-level talent. Right tackle will invite some big-money decisions, and the safety and off-ball linebacker positions feature considerable depth. A few ascending talents and hidden gems appear in this class as well.

This list ranks free agents by earning potential. In terms of accomplishments, Bobby Wagner, Fletcher Cox and Lavonte David would lap most of the players included here. With each defender going into his age-33 season, however, the standouts’ ability to command big contracts is certainly not what it once was.

In terms of possible destinations, not every team is represented equally. Some teams will bring more needs and cap space into this year’s marketplace than others. With some help from Adam La Rose, here is this year’s PFR top 50 free agents list, along with potential landing spots for each player.

1. Orlando Brown Jr., T. Age in Week 1: 27

As the 49ers did two years ago with Trent Williams, the Chiefs will let Brown hit the market. This could end up benefiting the veteran tackle, who was offered a deal with an average annual value north of Williams’ tackle-record $23MM per year before last July’s franchise tag deadline. Citing insufficient guarantees, Brown turned it down. Kansas City’s offer did contain a bloated final year to bump up the AAV to $23.1MM, but will Brown – a quality left tackle but not a top-shelf option at the position – do as well this year? He will soon find out.

Brown has now made four Pro Bowls and carries positional versatility that would intrigue were he open to a return to right tackle, which by all accounts he is not. The 363-pound blocker can struggle against speed-rusher types, but he is set to be the rare accomplished left tackle in his prime to hit the market. The Chiefs sent a package including a first-round pick to the Ravens for Brown, whose bet on himself led to a $16.6MM tag and an open market. The bidding will run high, though it might not reach the places the Williams pursuit did in 2021.

The Chiefs’ exclusive negotiating rights with Brown end March 13; they have had nearly two years to complete a deal. The market will determine if the league views the sixth-year blocker as an elite-level left tackle or merely a good one. Then again, bidding wars drive up the prices for O-linemen on the market. O-line salary records have fallen four times (Williams, Corey Linsley, Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff) in free agency since 2021. This foray could give Brown the guaranteed money he seeks, and it puts the Chiefs at risk of seeing their two-year left tackle depart. The Ravens also passed on this payment back in 2021, in part because they already had Ronnie Stanley on the payroll.

The defending champions have Brown and right tackle Andrew Wylie eligible for free agency; some of their leftover funds from the Tyreek Hill trade went to Brown’s tag. Although some among the Chiefs were frustrated Brown passed on last year’s offer, the team will be hurting at a premium position if he walks. Given the importance the blindside position carries, fewer teams are in need compared to right tackle. The Titans losing Taylor Lewan and continuing to clear cap space could point to a run at Brown, though the team has a few needs up front. The Jets likely have needs at both tackle spots. Would the Bears relocate Braxton Jones to the right side? Ryan Poles was with the Chiefs when they traded for Brown, and the Bears could outmuscle anyone for cap space.

Best fits: Titans, Chiefs, Commanders

2. Mike McGlinchey, T. Age in Week 1: 28

Teams in need of right tackles will participate in one of the more interesting markets in recent memory. Above-average-to-good offensive linemen do well in free agency annually, and this year will send three experienced right tackles in their prime to the market. A five-year starter in San Francisco and former top-10 pick, McGlinchey has a good case as the best of this lot. The five-year vet’s run-blocking craft eclipses his pass-protection chops exiting Year 5, but he will walk into a competitive market. The former Notre Dame left tackle should have a lucrative deal in place during next week’s legal tampering period.

Although mutual interest existed regarding a second 49ers-McGlinchey agreement, John Lynch acknowledged the only viable path for McGlinchey to stay in San Francisco would be his market underwhelming. That seems unlikely, so right tackle-seeking teams – and there are a handful – will jockey for the sixth-year veteran. McGlinchey turned 28 in January, making this his obvious window to cash in. He rated fifth in ESPN’s run block win rate stat last season, bouncing back from the quadriceps injury that ended his 2021 season.

There is no shortage of Kyle Shanahan– or Sean McVay-influenced schemes around the league. The Bears employ Luke Getsy as their play-caller; Getsy worked for Shanahan/McVay tree branch Matt LaFleur, and the Bears’ cap space dwarfs every other team’s. After fielding a shaky O-line (on a team full of substandard position groups), Chicago needs a better idea of Justin Fields’ trajectory. Outbidding the field for the top right tackle available is a good start. The Patriots want a right tackle – on a line without a big contract presently – and the Raiders might have a say here as well. In need at multiple O-line spots, Las Vegas will have cash as well if it passes on a big QB investment.

Best fits: Bears, Patriots, Raiders

3. Jawann Taylor, T. Age in Week 1: 26

As expected, the Jaguars took Evan Engram off the market via the franchise tag. The tight end tag being $7MM cheaper than the $18.2MM offensive lineman tag always pointed Taylor toward free agency, and after never missing a start in four Duval County seasons, Taylor will be tough for the Jags to retain. They already drafted Walker Little in the 2021 second round, and no team that is currently paying a left tackle top-10 money (Cam Robinson is seventh) has a top-10 right tackle contract on the books. Taylor is expected to land at least a top-10 right tackle deal, with a $17MM-AAV figure being floated. That would place the former Florida Gator in the top five at the position, depending on how McGlinchey fares next week.

Taylor resembles the genre of player that usually populates the top of a position’s free agency market: a dependable performer who checks in below the top tier at his job. Taylor enjoyed his strongest year in his platform campaign. The former second-round pick dropped his hold count from 11 in 2021 to two in 2022. While PFF charged Taylor with five sacks allowed, Football Outsiders measured his blown-block rate at a career-low 1.3%. Offering a disparate skillset compared to McGlinchey, Taylor has fared better as a pass protector than in the run game. PFF slotted him as a top-10 pass protector among right tackles but viewed him as a dismal run-blocker.

The Jags have presumably made Taylor an offer, but other teams will probably top it. The Dolphins gave Terron Armstead a five-year, $75MM deal in 2022 but have needed a right tackle ever since Ja’Wuan James’ 2019 exit. They were forced to start in-season pickup Brandon Shell for much of the year and have cleared more than $45MM in cap space over the past two days. The team just picked up Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option, and the league’s lone southpaw starting QB needs better blindside protection after a season in which he suffered at least two concussions. Overspending on O-linemen is not the Patriots’ M.O., but they have a need at right tackle and do not have big dollars devoted to quarterback or any position up front. New England is on the hunt for a right tackle upgrade, and the team’s 2021 free agency showed it would spend when it deemed expenditures necessary.

Best fits: Dolphins, Patriots, Jaguars

4. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB. Age in Week 1: 31

The quarterback market cleared up this week, seeing Geno Smith and Daniel Jones extended and Derek Carr’s lengthy street free agency stretch end with $70MM in practical guarantees. Garoppolo’s injury history will affect his value, but teams kind of make it a priority to staff this position. The former Super Bowl starter is in his prime and on the market for the first time. How high this market goes will depend on what the Raiders want and what Aaron Rodgers decides.

The 49ers’ 12-game win streak that included Brock Purdy’s stunning displays began with Garoppolo at the controls. Guiding San Francisco to four straight wins, Garoppolo was at or close to his best when he suffered a broken foot in Week 13. He sported a 7-0 TD-INT ratio during that win streak and closed the season 16th in QBR. He would have walked into a better market had the injury not occurred; the setback came after a string of health issues. He tore an ACL in 2018, missed 10 games in 2020 after an ankle sprain and was significantly limited by the end of the 2021 slate due to a three-injury season. Garoppolo’s March 2022 shoulder surgery hijacked his trade market.

Ideally for Garoppolo, Rodgers returns to Green Bay or retires. While that is looking unlikelier by the day, it would put the Jets in a desperate position following Carr’s decision. The Raiders represent the other wild card. Garoppolo would slide into Josh McDaniels’ system seamlessly, given the parties’ three-plus years together in New England. The Raiders have operated a bit more stealthily compared to the Jets; they have been connected to Rodgers, Garoppolo and rolling with a rookie. Plan C here would be a tough sell given the presences of 30-year-old skill-position players Davante Adams and Darren Waller, but Las Vegas’ plans cloud Garoppolo’s market. If the Raiders pass and Rodgers chooses the Jets, Garoppolo’s earning power could drop.

McDaniels not fancying a Garoppolo reunion opens the door for the Texans, who hired ex-49ers pass-game coordinator Bobby Slowik as OC, and others. Houston’s situation may not appeal to Garoppolo, but Slowik and Nick Caserio being in Houston make this connection too clear to ignore. The Buccaneers and Commanders are in win-now positions but are giving indications they do not want to spend much at QB. The Commanders were deep in talks for the then-49ers QB last year, however. Garoppolo will test those squads, along with the Falcons, who are entering Year 3 of the Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime. The Panthers’ acquisition of the No. 1 pick likely takes them out of the running, and Carolina not being in the mix could also affect how high the Garoppolo price goes.

Bottom line, there should be enough teams interested in staffing their 2023 QB1 spots that the best free agent option should do OK no matter what happens with Rodgers.

Best fits: Raiders, Texans, Commanders

5. Jamel Dean, CB. Age in Week 1: 26

The Buccaneers retained Carlton Davis last year, but their dire cap situation should force a Dean departure. Dean’s age/performance combination should make him this year’s top cornerback available. With corner a position of need for many teams, the former third-round pick stands to do very well. Dean has only been a full-time starter in one season, however, seeing his defensive snap share jump from 67% in 2021 to 90% last season.

Excelling in press coverage, Dean played a major role for the 2020 Super Bowl champion Bucs iteration and overtook fellow free agent Sean Murphy-Bunting last year. Dean did perform better in 2021 compared to 2022, allowing no touchdowns and limiting QBs to a collective 50.0 passer rating; those numbers shot up to four and 86.0 last season. Still, PFF rated Dean as last year’s 10th-best corner. J.C. Jackson did not break into the top five among corners upon hitting the market last year; Dean should not be expected to do so, either. But many teams will be interested.

The Patriots have paid up for a corner previously, in Stephon Gilmore (2017), but Jonathan Jones – forced to primarily play a boundary role in 2022 – wants to re-sign and will be far cheaper than Dean. The Falcons need help opposite AJ Terrell and trail only the Bears in cap space. Although a Terrell payment is coming, it can be tabled to 2024 due to the fifth-year option. The Dolphins are clearing cap space and now have a corner need, with Byron Jones no longer with the team after his missed season.

Best fits: Dolphins, Falcons, Patriots

6. Jessie Bates, S. Age in Week 1: 26

Bates stands to be one of this free agency crop’s safest bets, combining extensive experience – the final two years as a pillar for a championship threat – with a host of prime years remaining. Beginning his career at 21, the Wake Forest product has started 79 games and anchored the Bengals’ secondary for most of his tenure. The Bengals did not tag Bates for a second time, passing on a $15.5MM price. With the team planning to let Bates test the market, it looks like the sixth-year defender will leave Cincinnati.

The Bengals and Bates went through two offseasons of negotiations, ending in the 2022 tag. The Bengals have some big payments to make at higher-profile positions. Safety does not qualify as such, but Bates has been a cornerstone in Lou Anarumo’s defense and will be handsomely rewarded. Bates finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 overall safety in 2020 and, after a shakier 2021 in which he admitted his contract situation affected his play, Bates came through with impact plays in the postseason. He graded as a top-25 safety, via PFF, in 2022.

Safety is one of this year’s deeper positions in free agency. Of the top 10 safety contracts, however, only one went to a free agent (Marcus Williams in 2022). Bates should be expected to join the Ravens defender, who signed for $14MM per year. It will be interesting if he can climb into the top five at the position; Justin Simmons’ $15.25MM-AAV accord sits fifth. Bates should be expected to approach or eclipse that, though moving to the Derwin JamesMinkah Fitzpatrick tier will be more difficult. Still, after the Bengals offered Bates less than $17MM guaranteed last summer, he should depart for more guaranteed money.

The Browns are interested in Bates, who will cost more than John Johnson cost Cleveland two years ago (three years, $33.75MM). Clear of the record-setting Matt Ryan dead-money hit, the Falcons have cash to spend and a Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime entering Year 3. The Falcons need to make progress, and they do not have much in the way of talent or costs at safety. The team has not featured much here since the Keanu NealRicardo Allen tandem splintered. Bates would be a way to remedy that.

Team fits: Falcons, Browns, Raiders

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Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki Expected To Leave In Free Agency

The Dolphins used their franchise tag on Mike Gesicki last year and proceeded to minimize his role. Tight end-needy teams can now count on the sixth-year veteran being available in March.

Gesicki is expected to hit the market and leave Miami, Cameron Wolfe of NFL.com notes (video link). This comes after the receiving tight end’s numbers cratered in Mike McDaniel‘s offense. After this proved to be a poor fit, the former second-round pick will test the waters once the legal tampering period begins March 13.

Last year brought three tight end tags, but after the Browns extended David Njoku, the other two (Gesicki, Dalton Schultz) played on the tag. The Schultz-Cowboys talks brought steady updates, but little came out about the Dolphins’ negotiations with Gesicki. That proved telling, as the team ended up paying the $10.9MM tag price for a 362-yard receiving season. Gesicki’s targets plummeted from 112 in 2021 to 52 last season.

Trade rumors emerged before the season started, as it became clear the Dolphins were changing Gesicki’s role. But the team held onto him. While Gesicki said he was happy staying in Miami ahead of the trade deadline, a better role likely awaits him elsewhere.

Drafted during Adam Gase’s time as head coach, Gesicki became a steady contributor during the Brian FloresChris Grier partnership. As the Dolphins cycled through offensive coordinators, the Penn State product became the team’s most consistent weapon from 2019-21. He eclipsed 700 receiving yards in 2020 and ’21. With Tyreek Hill in the fold, the Dolphins’ offense changed. Hill and Jaylen Waddle became the expected focal points, but McDaniel’s offense called for more Gesicki blocking. Although Kyle Shanahan‘s 49ers offense regularly receives production from George Kittle, the latter is one of the best blockers at his position. Pro Football Focus rated Gesicki as one of the league’s worst run-blocking tight ends last season.

Gesicki, 27, may well have had better luck on the market had the Dolphins not tagged him last year. Now, he is coming off an unproductive year. The 6-foot-6 pass catcher should still fare decently in free agency, with the cap rising by nearly $17MM, but it will be interesting to see who is willing to bet on his receiving talent this year.

Schultz, Hayden Hurst, Austin Hooper, Evan Engram and Robert Tonyan are among the tight ends on track to hit the market. The Jaguars want to bring back Engram, who could soon become the latest tight end tagged. That would benefit Gesicki and Co., thinning the talent pool. McDaniel’s team will likely be on the lookout for a replacement. Hunter Long remains on a rookie deal; he did not catch a pass last season. Durham Smythe is signed through 2023. While PFF graded Smythe as one of the league’s top run-blocking tight ends last season, Gesicki’s departure would leave the Dolphins with little in terms of proven receiving talent at the position.

Trade Notes: Gesicki, Hawks, Commanders

Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki recently emerged as a potential trade candidate. The tight end doesn’t seem overly focused on the latest rumblings, telling reporters that he hasn’t asked the front office for clarity about the report.

“No,” Gesicki responded when asked if he’s reached out to the Dolphins (h/t Joe Schad of The Palm Beach Post). “I mean, I think I just kind of like I said, I just kind of go about my business. Whatever happens, happens. And I’ve been here for five years now. I love it here. I’m happy to be here. And if I stay here, which I mean, I would assume, I would. I’m excited to continue to be here, make plays and you know, help the team win and move forward and all that kind of stuff for the rest of season.”

Gesicki is coming off his best game of the season, with the tight end hauling in six catches for 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Vikings. However, the 27-year-old has been limited to only 101 yards in his other five appearances, with receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle commanding the bulk of the targets. Despite his inconsistent offensive role, Gesicki made it clear that he hasn’t asked for a trade.

“Nah,” Gesicki said when asked if he’s requested a trade.” I mean, I think these coaches also understand what I’m capable of. And I think, you know, Sunday was a good, you know, showing of that just, you know, a couple of opportunities to go out there and make plays. And that was my thing. I don’t know when the opportunity is gonna come, but I gotta keep preparing as if they’re gonna come.”

More trade notes from around the NFL…

  • The Seahawks have made cornerback Sidney Jones available, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. While the organization would prefer to keep the veteran, they’re willing to listen to offers with Jones buried on the depth chart. Michael Jackson and Tariq Woolen are holding down the fort as the outside cornerbacks, and Tre Brown will eventually work his way back into the lineup. Jones is playing on a one-year deal following a career season in 2021. In 16 games (11 starts) for Seattle, the cornerback compiled 66 tackles and 10 passes defended.
  • Speaking of Seattle, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times can’t envision the Seahawks making a significant move at the trade deadline. While Seattle has made deadline moves in the past, the team currently seems focused on building their core from within. The team also has little cap space to work with, making a big splash unlikely.
  • Following his benching in Week 5, it was reported that Commanders cornerback William Jackson could be looking for a fresh start elsewhere. However, the defensive back denied reports that he wants to be traded (per ESPN’s John Keim on Twitter). Jackson was ruled out for Week 6 with a back injury, and it sounds like he’s unlikely to play in Week 7. Jackson is attached to a three-year, $40.5MM deal, but teams have expressed interest ahead of the Nov. 1 deadline.
  • The Panthers were planning to cut Robbie Anderson before they found a taker in the Cardinals, reports ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter). Considering the prospect of just eating his salary, the Panthers made out well in the deal, securing a 2024 sixth-round pick and a 2025 seventh-round pick from Arizona.

Dolphins Willing To Entertain Mike Gesicki Trade Offers

Expectations were high for the Dolphins’ passing attack this season, in no small part due to the arrivals of wideout Tyreek Hill and head coach Mike McDaniel. A familiar face in the team’s offense has taken a back seat, however, leading to his name being included in trade talk.

Tight end Mike Gesicki has gone from one of the unit’s focal points to a rotational member this season. The 27-year-old has made just 15 catches through six weeks in 2022, totaling 170 yards and three touchdowns. His proficiency as a receiver – and, more importantly, his lack thereof as a blocker – led to expectations that he could see a reduced workload within McDaniel’s system.

In late August, it was reported that Miami was open to the possibility of trading Gesicki, a further reflection of his presumed fall down the pecking order behind Hill and 2021 first-rounder Jaylen Waddle. Not much appears to have changed on that front; ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that the Dolphins remain willing to field trade offers on Gesicki. He does add, on the other hand, that Miami is not actively shopping the Penn State alum at this time.

Complicating matters is the fact that Gesicki is playing on the franchise tag this season, valued in his case at $10.9MM. That figure didn’t stop a pair of teams from calling about his availability before the regular season began, but would represent a difficult expense for an acquiring to justify given his underwhelming production so far. As Fowler points out, many around the league remain perplexed by Gesicki’s lack of usage given the team’s one-year investment in him.

Long-term contract talks never seemed to be in the picture this offseason, leaving Gesicki’s 2023 destination a question mark to begin with. Whether he can up his receiving numbers – especially with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa expected to be back for Week 7 – will be worth watching in the short term, given the effect it could have on his trade value.