2022 NFL Free Agency: TEs Dalton Schultz, Mike Gesicki
It’s going to be one of the toughest debates of the ’22 offseason; Schultz or Gesicki? Both have proven to be some of the best weapons that the TE position has to offer.
Going into the 2020 season, many clamored for Blake Jarwin to be Dallas’ next great TE after Jason Witten’s stellar career. Then in Week 1 of that ’20 season, Jarwin went down with an ACL injury that took him out for the year.
Schultz would pick up the slack, as he went on to post a solid 63-catch, 615-yard, 4-TD season despite Dak Prescott suffering a fractured ankle against the New York Giants in Week 5. How’d he follow that up? The fourth-year pro set career-highs across the board in 2021 in catches (78), yards (808), yards per catch (10.4), TDs (8) and catch rate (75%).
Schultz, a former Stanford Cardinal, had the fourth-highest passer rating for targeted tight ends who also hauled in 50 or more receptions (118.6), trailing only Pat Freiermuth (121.1), Dallas Goedert (121.1), and Hunter Henry (119.6).
Gesicki has been an even more constant presence. After a slow rookie season, the former Penn State Nittany Lion has had at least 50 receptions and 570 yards in each of the last three seasons. And that’s saying something, especially when you consider he’s had names like Josh Rosen, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jacoby Brissett throwing him the rock in that span.
He’s shown to be able to stretch the field — in the 2020 season, Gesicki’s 13.3 yards per catch trailed only Travis Kelce (13.5) for TEs who had 50 or more receptions that year.
The 2021 season was also a breakout campaign for Gesicki, as the fellow fourth-year player had career-bests in receptions (73) and yards (780).
So who will make more money? I feel as though this could be a chicken and egg situation. But in the long run, I have a theory as to how this’ll play out.
The bigger deal goes to: Gesicki
Hear me out here. First off, Miami has the most money to spend in free agency, coming in at over $61 million. And in terms of impending Dolphins free agents, he has to be the team’s top priority. Especially for a player who is so relied on in the passing attack as a receiver, as he ran routes on 67% of his snaps in 2021.
Gesicki, who tallied 592 of his 803 snaps in ’21 from the slot, is also imperative for a player like Tua’s success. The former Alabama QB needs guys he can get the ball out quickly to, which showed in his 7.0 intended air yards per attempt (third lowest in the NFL last season).
On the flipside, Schultz is a great piece but he’s a member of one of the deepest receiving corps in the league. With Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, Dallas has one of the best one-two punch WR combos in the game. That tandem is so strong that the Cowboys may be unable to retain a fellow dynamic wideout in Michael Gallup.
But even with Gallup sidelined for most of the season with a calf injury and then an ACL tear in Week 17, Cedrick Wilson had a career year as well. And with the former Boise State wideout joining Schultz and Gallup as free agents for a team currently $26 million under the cap, according to Spotrac, Dallas has some issues on its hands.
So with that being said, I think both players stay put, but I feel as though Gesicki will land the bigger deal money-wise. He may be lobbying for WR money as well, considering his usage as a slot receiver over his seldom deployment in-line (172 snaps at traditional TE in ’21).
The Dolphins can shell out a deal in the $10-13 million/per year range and not bat an eye, whereas the Cowboys will have pressure on them to match that deal, but with far less money to play with.
Maybe Schultz does get a bigger deal than Gesicki, but if that’s the case, I don’t see it being with Dallas.