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Free Agent Tight End Predictions for 2023

It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Travis Kelce finishing as the TE1 in 2023 fantasy football leagues. While there are a few obvious candidates to dethrone Kelce as is, that can all change with a few significant free agent signings. There is a strong group of rookie tight ends incoming, too. We’ll have a better idea of where they may end up after the dust of free agency settles.

With a lot of available big-name players, the fantasy football landscape is sure to change. While we will have plenty of time to analyze the upcoming moves for redraft league purposes, making educated guesses as to where these tight ends could be playing next year can help us get an edge in dynasty and best-ball leagues. With that said, I’m looking at the most relevant tight ends and predicting where they’ll land once the free agency period begins.

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Best Landing Spots for 2023 Free Agent Tight Ends

1. Mike Gesicki

The Dolphins are going to finally let Mike Gesicki test the free agent market. After playing under the franchise during the 2022 season, Gesicki will likely end up playing elsewhere in 2023. Under new head coach, Mike McDaniel, Gesicki’s 2022 receiving numbers and snaps played are his lowest since his rookie season. Adding Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins’ offense naturally takes opportunities away, but Gesicki saw two or fewer targets in nine games with a three-game stretch from Weeks 12 through 14 without a reception. Yikes.

Mike Gesicki’s Best Landing Spot: The Green Bay Packers

Getting Mike Gesicki in a Packers uniform is long overdue. Landing a tight end with receiving skills like Gesicki would have been extremely beneficial to Aaron Rodgers, especially prior to last season’s trade deadline. Ironically, while Gesicki signing in Green Bay as a free agent in 2023 could happen, Rodgers may not be around to see it.

Either way, Gesicki is a much-needed veteran presence in the Packers’ receiving corps. With Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb set to be free agents themselves, that leaves second-year receivers, Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs as the expected top pass catchers. Tight end, Robert Tonyan, will be a free agent, as well. Gesicki is a little more than a year younger than Tonyan and doesn’t have a torn ACL in his injury history.

Whether it’s Rodgers or Jordan Love under center, Green Bay is one of a few free agent landing spots where Gesicki could anywhere from 80 to 100 targets. While he doesn’t create a ton of separation, he still averages 11.3 yards per catch utilizing his large frame to haul in passes. Assuming the Packers are successful in moving the ball in 2023, Gesicki could be a top red-zone target for them, too. Green Bay is one of the best spots for Gesicki to have a chance to finish as a TE1 in fantasy football.

2. Dalton Schultz

The Dallas Cowboys’ COO, Stephen Jones, claims the team is “not afraid” of using the franchise tag again this season. After placing the tag on Dalton Schultz in 2022, it’s possible they do so again ahead of the 2023 season. If that were the case, the cost of the tag increases by 20%. That makes free agent running back, Tony Pollard, a more likely candidate to receive it.

Dalton Schultz’ Best Landing Spot: The Los Angeles Chargers

This may be a pipe dream considering the Chargers are currently about $20 million over the cap. Given the situation, it’s more likely they draft one of the notable, top rookies. However, if they can make room for a free agent like Dalton Schultz, this offense will be humming in 2023.

Schultz logged his third-straight season of 89 or more targets with the Cowboys in 2022. He did so in the least amount of games played (15) of the three seasons. Though banged up at times, he still managed nearly four catches per game and just over 10 yards per catch.

The Cowboys’ former offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore, was relieved of his duties after their playoff loss. One day later, he accepted the same role with the Los Angeles Chargers. Though Schultz never saw more than a 16% target share under Moore the last two seasons, he still managed to finish inside the top-12 tight ends for fantasy football.

Releasing tight end Gerald Everett would create $4 million in cap space for the Chargers. Bringing in Schultz adds a solid pass catcher, who’s two years younger than Everett, to further compliment quarterback Justin Herbert. I consider Schultz a top-10 fantasy tight end, but signing with the Chargers would boost his value. Signing with a team that has more cap space, like the Houston Texans, would make investing in Schultz tougher in 2023 until we see who their quarterback is.

3. Evan Engram

In a one-year “prove it” contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Engram played well enough to earn himself a nice free agent deal this offseason. His 73 receptions and 766 receiving yards are both career-highs. He achieved such stats on 98 targets, which is the actually the third-most of his career. More importantly, Engram’s absolved his history of drops with the New York Giants. His 74.5% catch rate in 2022 is also a career-high.

Evan Engram’s Best Landing Spot: The Jacksonville Jaguars

It’s hard to even consider Evan Engram a free agent tight end. It’s all but official that he will be back with the Jaguars in 2023 playing under the franchise tag. Engram himself alluded to “the announcement” a little over a week ago:

So, what can we expect from Evan Engram back in Jacksonville for the 2023 fantasy football season? For starters, Engram’s 79.6% target share amongst Jaguar tight ends from last season shouldn’t change. As far as team target share goes, there will still be plenty of mouths to feed on their offense.

Jacksonville is adding Calvin Ridley to their receiving corps. He hasn’t played football since October of 2021, but has a career average of 7.75 targets per game. Marvin Jones is a free agent that probably doesn’t return to Jacksonville, leaving behind 81 targets from last season. Ridley should command close to, if not more than, Jones’ vacant targets.

Regardless, Jacksonville ranks ninth in pass attempts per game from last season. Trevor Lawrence’s ascension as a quarterback should continue in his second year under Doug Pederson, too. Engram’s rapport with Lawrence from 2022 can only benefit him. He has another great opportunity to finish in the top seven at the position, but will probably have an ADP closer to TE10-12.

Quick Hitters:

Hayden Hurst is nothing more than a weekly streamer in 2023 if he returns as a free agent to the Cincinnati Bengals. There’s a good chance his fantasy value takes an even bigger hit if he signs somewhere and is asked to block more. He would be one of the better receiving tight ends the Carolina Panthers have had in years if an opportunity arises there. The same goes for Cameron Brate now that he’s been released from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Irv Smith Jr. is set to be a free agent after getting replaced by T.J. Hockenson via trade last season. Irv Smith is a strong pass catcher with a career 72.2% catch rate. He played college ball with Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama so I wonder if he could end up in Miami. The Dolphins weren’t a fit for Mike Gesicki so ending up there would seemingly be a downgrade to Smith.

Robert Tonyan‘s days of fantasy football relevancy are likely behind him. If Hayden Hurst leaves Cincy, though, Tonyan is a somewhat cheaper option to replace him. He could string together a few weekly starts for fantasy football as he’s nearly two years removed from tearing his ACL.

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