Free agency hasn’t even started yet, and the tight end position is looking pretty picked over. Three of the best options got the franchise tag, and Zach Ertz just agreed to a new deal with Arizona.
Only eight players got the franchise tag this year, and three of them were tight ends – Mike Gesicki, David Njoku and Dalton Schultz. All are guaranteed to make at least $10.9 million in 2022, and that’s a better price tag than a lot of the other positions. I was hoping the Dolphins would let Gesicki walk (I think he might have been a lot better playing for a different team).
Ertz didn’t get the tag but signed a franchise kind of deal -- $31.7 million for the next three years.
Ertz is 31, but he fit in nicely to Arizona’s offense last year. After arriving by a trade from Philly, Ertz averaged 5.1 catches for 52 yards for Arizona, with 3 TDs in 11 games. (On the chart below, you see only Ertz’s Arizona numbers – they don’t include his Philly stats.)
There’s not much left for teams wanting to add a player at the position. Tyler Conklin, Gerald Everett and C.J. Uzomah, I guess, would be the three remaining tight ends with some potential to generate decent interest from other teams. I could see them being the biggest movers at the position.
Rob Gronkowski is a free agent, but with Tom Brady coming back, I don’t think he’s going anywhere. If Gronkowski plays, it almost certainly will be with the Bucs.
Jared Cook and Evan Engram are available, but I consider them to be more hybrid players rather than true tight ends. They’re almost like wide receivers, tending to split out wide. Cook is an older guy, while Engram has been a disappointment recently with the Giants. Some potential, I suppose, that a team takes an interest in trying to rehab Engram.
Robert Tonyan is available, but he’s coming off a torn ACL and didn’t have a large body of work with the Packers.
In the chart below, you’re looking at the per-game numbers of the top 50 tight ends last year who started at least eight games. I slipped in one five-start guy as well (Maxx Williams was starting for Arizona last year until the season-ending injury that caused them to go after Ertz). Free agent players tagged with black dots. Guys who are now financially locked up are in bold.
|PER-GAME TIGHT END NUMBERS|
|Mark Andrews, Balt.||17||6.3||80.1||.57||17.7|
|Travis Kelce, K.C.||16||5.8||70.3||.63||16.6|
|George Kittle, S.F.||14||5.1||65.0||.43||14.3|
|• Rob Gronkowski, T.B.||12||4.6||66.8||.50||14.3|
|Dalton Schultz, Dall.||17||4.6||47.5||.49||12.3|
|Darren Waller, L.V.||11||5.0||60.5||.18||12.1|
|T.J. Hockenson, Det.||12||5.1||48.6||.36||12.1|
|Zach Ertz, Ariz.||11||5.1||52.2||.27||12.0|
|Dallas Goedert, Phil.||15||3.7||55.3||.29||11.0|
|Dawson Knox, Buff.||15||3.3||39.1||.60||10.8|
|Kyle Pitts, Atl.||17||4.0||60.4||.06||10.4|
|Noah Fant, Den.||16||4.3||41.9||.25||9.9|
|Tyler Higbee, LAR||15||4.1||37.3||.33||9.8|
|Mike Gesicki, Mia.||17||4.3||45.9||.14||9.7|
|Hunter Henry, N.E.||17||2.9||35.5||.53||9.7|
|Pat Freiermuth, Pitt.||16||3.8||31.1||.46||9.6|
|• Jared Cook, LAC||16||3.0||35.3||.29||8.3|
|• Maxx Williams, Ariz.||5||3.2||38.6||.20||8.3|
|• Tyler Conklin, Min.||17||3.6||34.9||.18||8.1|
|• Gerald Everett, Sea.||15||3.2||31.9||.27||8.1|
|• C.J. Uzomah, Cin.||16||3.1||30.8||.31||8.0|
|Dan Arnold, Jac.||8||3.5||40.5||.04||7.8|
|Cole Kmet, Chi.||17||3.5||36.0||.00||7.1|
|• Evan Engram, NYG||15||3.1||27.2||.20||7.0|
|David Njoku, Cle.||16||2.3||29.7||.25||6.7|
|• Robert Tonyan, G.B.||8||2.3||25.5||.25||6.3|
|Brevin Jordan, Hou.||9||2.2||19.8||.33||6.2|
|Ricky Seals-Jones, Was.||10||2.9||25.2||.10||6.0|
|Austin Hooper, Cle.||16||2.4||21.6||.21||5.8|
|Albert Okwuegbunam, Den.||14||2.4||23.6||.14||5.6|
|John Bates, Was.||9||2.0||26.4||.11||5.3|
|• Hayden Hurst, Atl.||13||2.0||17.0||.23||5.1|
|Adam Trautman, N.O.||13||2.1||20.2||.15||5.0|
|• Anthony Firkser, Ten.||15||2.3||19.4||.13||5.0|
|• Mo Alie-Cox, Ind.||17||1.4||18.6||.24||4.7|
|Jack Doyle, Ind.||17||1.7||17.8||.20||4.7|
|Ryan Griffin, NYJ||14||1.9||18.6||.14||4.7|
|Cameron Brate, T.B.||17||1.8||14.4||.24||4.6|
|Geoff Swaim, Ten.||16||1.9||13.1||.19||4.4|
|Tyler Kroft, NYJ||9||1.8||19.2||.11||4.4|
|Donald Parham, LAC||14||1.4||13.6||.24||4.2|
|Jonnu Smith, N.E.||16||1.8||18.4||.06||4.2|
|Durham Smythe, Mia.||17||2.0||21.0||.00||4.1|
|Josiah Deguara, G.B.||15||1.7||16.3||.13||4.1|
|• Blake Jarwin, Dall.||8||1.4||12.0||.25||4.1|
|• Eric Ebron, Pitt.||8||1.5||10.5||.25||4.1|
|Harrison Bryant, Cle.||16||1.3||14.6||.19||3.9|
|• Kyle Rudolph, NYG||16||1.6||16.1||.06||3.6|
|• Jordan Akins, Hou.||13||1.8||16.5||.00||3.5|
|• Jimmy Graham, Chi.||15||.9||11.1||.22||3.4|
|• Will Dissly, Sea.||15||1.4||15.4||.07||3.3|