Ranking Rob Gronkowski and the 6 best tight ends on the market
With the Super Bowl in our rearview mirror, football fans can now ponder where Mike Gesicki, Rob Gronkowski and other tried tight ends will land when NFL free agency begins in March.
With the league’s new year rapidly approaching, now seems like the perfect time to analyze the next crop of free agents ahead of what could be an extremely busy offseason. For this list, we’ve ranked the best potential tight ends based on age, skill, and recent success. Restricted free agents, possible cap losses and trade goals were not eligible for this list. Older players, such as Gronkowski and Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz, were eligible because they had not retired at the time of publication.
Based on considering the aforementioned prerequisites, the best tight ends in the 2022 free agency class rank as follows.
Honorable Mention: Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Honorable mention seems to be the wrong term here. If Gronkowski had said after the season that he absoutely destined to play in 2022, he would have a rightful place on the roster. However, as of press time, he still hasn’t announced his plans, so we’ll include him as an honorable mention.
If Gronkowski Is back next season, don’t be surprised to see him join the Cincinnati Bengals. The four-time Super Bowl champion has expressed interest in teaming up with Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow ahead of Super Bowl 56, and a partnership makes sense for all parties.
6. Evan Engram, New York Giants
Engram, who will play the entire 2020 season at age 28, is in an intriguing position. At times with the Giants, he looked like a dangerous upright weapon and even won Pro Bowl honors after a 63-catch, 654-yard performance in 2020. However, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound weapon has a history of falls, and he had a career-low 408 yards in 2021.
Why does Engram rank above Minnesota Vikings star Tyler Conklin, who had 61 catches, 593 yards and three touchdowns in 2021? Engram averaged 52 receptions, 567 yards and three touchdowns in his five years with the Giants, while Conklin entered the 2021 season with just 32 career catches over three seasons. The story of relative success prevailed over an exceptional year.
Engram makes sense as a low risk, high reward target for teams that use multiple tight ends. Don’t be surprised if he ends up replacing one of the players ranked above him on this list.
5. Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers
We’re buying high on Tonyan, who exploded for 52 catches, 586 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Packers in 2020. Although he missed most of the 2021 season with a torn ACL, that only increases his value. , at least as far as this list is concerned. The Indiana State product will likely have to consider signing a one-year deal to have a best shot at signing a long-term contract in 2023.
Tonyan, who will play all of next season at 28, had 18 catches, 204 yards and two touchdowns in eight games last season. It makes perfect sense for the New York Jets, a team desperate for an explosive tight end for young quarterback Zach Wilson.
4. Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals
Ertz looked at home after a midseason trade with the Cardinals, having 56 catches for 574 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games. The three-time Pro Bowler added three more receptions for 21 yards in the NFC Wild Card Round.
Familiarity could win out here if the 31-year-old wants to return to the Cardinals next season. However, the Philadelphia Eagles shouldn’t expect to find the veteran tight, especially after Dallas Goedert’s excellent 2021 season. Although it looks like he still has plenty of gas in the tank, his age prevents him from getting a better finish.
3. CJ Uzomah, Cincinnati Bengals
If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, where does Uzomah rank for Joe Burrow? The Auburn product set career highs for catches (49), receiving yards (493) and touchdowns (five) in 16 games last season. The 6-foot-6 tight end used his size to turn 15 catches into 146 yards and a touchdown in four playoff games.
Cincinnati has the cap space to bring Uzomah back, but he could easily choose to sign elsewhere. If he’s looking to start a life without Burrow, the Buccaneers make sense, especially if Gronkowski doesn’t return for a third season in Tampa Bay. Indianapolis Colts fans should also be intrigued at Uzomah if Mo Alie-Cox walks into free agency.
2. Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys
Schultz has quietly been among the league’s most productive tight ends in the pandemic era, recording 141 catches, 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns since the start of the 2020 season. The Stanford product added seven catches for 89 yards in the NFC Wild Card Round.
If the Cowboys want Schultz back, the odds should favor Team USA. But if the 25-year-old wants a salary the Cowboys don’t want to commit to, football fans should expect the Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Chargers to be on board.
1. Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
Fantasy football managers might cringe after seeing Gesicki atop this list after only scoring twice in the 2021 campaign. However, whatever his lack of scoring, it’s hard to argue the spot in improving the Penn State graduate as one of the most reliable tight ends in the league. Gesicki set career highs for catches (73) and receiving yards (780) last season despite the Dolphins’ constant quarterback drama.
The best option for Gesicki might be to stay in Miami, and not just because of state income tax laws. New Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel oversaw George Kittle’s rise to All-Pro tight end with the San Francisco 49ers, and the 26-year-old could be in line for similar growth.
Who knows? Maybe Gesicki will leave for the Chargers and the Dolphins will sign Gronkowski, a New England Patriots legend who has nine touchdowns in 13 career games against the Dolphins. Maybe then Miami will have a tight end that scores touchdowns and helps managers win their fantasy plays.
Do we look bitter? We are not bitter. Not at all.
As Sports broadcasting on Facebook. Follow us on twitter @sportscasting19.
RELATED: NFL Free Agency: Ranking 6 Players Cincinnati Bengals Must Target In 2022 NFL Offseason