It's fair to say the Patriots have taken a confusing route through free agency over the last few seasons. Two years ago, they signed Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry on consecutive days for two of the year's largest tight end contracts. Then, of course, they just traded Smith away for a seventh-round pick after he recorded only 55 catches in two seasons.
In the 2023 free agency, they have signed JuJu Smith-Schuster to an identical contract to what Jakobi Meyers got in Las Vegas, meaning they maybe could have held onto Meyers. Then their next move was to add yet another tight end. Now, former Dolphin Mike Gesicki is playing for the division rival, and many are questioning the value of this move.
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Gesicki signed a one-year deal worth up to $9 million. It's not a huge commitment, but it is the highest average annual value for a tight end in 2023 free agency.
The odds seem against this working out. A reason at the top of the list is that the Patriots have had two competent tight ends on their team for two years, and while Hunter Henry was solid in fantasy, Jonnu Smith was a disappointment. The argument exists that Mike Gesicki is better than Smith, and he'll be playing under a new offensive coordinator. So there is hope this situation ends up better than last time.
New Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien recruited Mike Gesicki in college. While they never worked together, O'Brien clearly values his skill set. While most loved Smith's athleticism, he had never registered more than 41 receptions or 448 yards in a season when he signed with New England. He still hasn't. Gesicki has topped those numbers three times and enters New England as a better-established player than Smith.
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The addition of Gesicki closes the brief window of optimism for Henry. After scoring nine touchdowns in 2021, Henry crashed back to earth last year. He recorded 41 catches for 509 yards but only two touchdowns. There was hope he would take over all tight end duties after the team moved Smith, but he will be splitting time again.
This move further lessens the available targets for the cast of lesser wide receivers in New England. After the addition of Smith-Schuster, things weren't looking great for Tyquan Thornton, Kendrick Bourne, or DeVante Parker. Gesicki will cut into their target share even further.
Adding Gesicki is about providing Mac Jones with another weapon. Mike Gesicki is not a blocker. He is here to play receiver. With the lack of any true No. 1 receiver in free agency, the Patriots must get playmakers where they can. Gesicki's career 62% catch rate and 11.1 yards per catch are solid for a tight end and should help improve Mac Jones' numbers heading into Year 3.
The Dolphins now have Durham Smythe, Tanner Conner, and the newly signed Eric Saubert at tight end. To be fair, when you have Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, who's playing tight end is a secondary concern. The team only targeted the position 75 times last year with Gesicki, so it may not be a priority in Mike McDaniel's offense. For what it's worth, Smythe has scored three touchdowns in minimal playing time as a Dolphin.
Simply comparing Gesicki as the Dolphin's starting tight end versus being a second option in New England will lead to a stock-down feeling. However, he was only targeted 52 times last year, but five touchdowns saved his season. In New England, with their lack of receivers, Geisicki could easily outpace the three targets per game he had in 2022. His stock is probably flat, but you aren't drafting a backup tight in fantasy football.