Free agency is here, and many NFL teams will have the opportunity to embark on a spending spree that would improve their rosters. There are both perennial Pro Bowlers looking to reset their respective markets with a new deal, and under-the-radar players poised to cash in for the first times in their careers.
When it comes to the tight end class in free agency, it's not one of the most elite groups from top to bottom. However, there are a couple of young stars who will undoubtedly attract interest on the open market. Below, we will break down five of the top tight ends looking for new deals in the coming months.
Schultz is the top tight end looking for a new contract, and Spotrac's market value tool indicates he's in for a HUGE payday. The 26-year-old was unable to build off his career season in 2021, catching 21 fewer passes and three fewer touchdowns, but Schultz was still an important part of the Cowboys offense, and someone Dak Prescott could rely on. Schultz played on the franchise tag last year, and that was somewhat a blessing in disguise. After the deals players like Darren Waller and David Njoku signed, Schultz's new AAV will likely be higher.
Projected AAV: $15.1 million, 2nd among TEs (via Spotrac)
Gesicki caught 32 passes for 362 yards and five touchdowns in 17 games played this past season. His 21.3 receiving yards per game were the lowest since his rookie season. More of a tall wide receiver than a traditional tight end, Gesicki is still a versatile weapon who teams will be interested in.
While Gesicki played on the franchise tag in 2022, head coach Mike McDaniel could be looking for a different type of tight end to incorporate into his offense next season. It feels like he's on the way out, and Gesicki even sent a message to the Dolphins fan base last month, thanking them for the memories if he has indeed played his last down as a Dolphin.
Projected AAV: $8.2 million, 16th among TEs (via Spotrac)
The former first-round pick of the New York Giants agreed to a one-year deal with the Jaguars last March, and it was a good decision, as he ended up playing an important role in Doug Pederson's offense. Engram put together a career year in 2022, as he caught 73 passes for a career-high 766 yards and four touchdowns. His 74.5 percent catch rate marked a career best as well. He might not have a chance to make it to free agency as the Jaguars are reportedly set to give him the franchise tag. Both Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke and Engram himself said earlier this offseason there was mutual interest on a contract extension.
Projected AAV: $9.3 million, 14th among TEs (via Spotrac)
Smith is one of the more intriguing tight ends in free agency. Part of that is due to his age as he will be 25 when the 2023 season begins. He's dealt with some injuries over the past few years, but he's a player poised to take a big step forward if he can remain healthy.
Smith played in just eight games last season due to an ankle injury, and missed all of the 2021 campaign. He caught 30 passes for a career-high 365 yards and five touchdowns in 2020. The injury history is obviously concerning, but Smith could be a fun weapon moving forward. It will be interesting to see if he is in Kevin O'Connell's long-term plans.
Projected AAV: $10.2 million, 13th among TEs (via Spotrac)
Hurst caught 52 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns in his one season with the Bengals, and didn't fumble a single time after losing three with the Atlanta Falcons in 2021. The Bengals could choose to upgrade at the tight end position by chasing a big fish in free agency or the draft, but Hurst is a quality veteran who won't cost top dollar. Cincinnati has some big-time extensions to prepare for, so re-upping with Hurst may be a savvy move for the cost-aware Bengals.
Projected AAV: $6.8 million, 20th among TEs (via Spotrac)
Other FA tight ends of note
- Austin Hooper (Titans)
- Robert Tonyan (Packers)
- Jordan Akins (Texans)
- Foster Moreau (Raiders)
- Dan Arnold (Jaguars)
- Drew Sample (Bengals)
- O.J. Howard (Texans)