Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Tight end a bit of a loose fit in offense

- By Chris Perkins Others to watch: Ryan Griffin, Chicago; Eric Saubert, Denver; Pharaoh Brown, Cleveland.

Tight end wasn’t a position of strength for the Dolphins last season, and that was more coach Mike McDaniel’s fault than Mike Gesicki’s.

It’ll be interestin­g to see how the tight end situation changes in 2023, especially if Gesicki departs via free agency, as expected.

The Dolphins return Durham Smythe, who at this point figures to do the bulk of the tight end work next season. Unproven tight ends Hunter Long and Tanner Conner also return. It’s not yet clear whether Cethan Carter, who missed 16 games last season due to a concussion, will return.

But Long and Conner might not fit the Dolphins’ needs. Training camp will be crucial to both.

Long and Conner are both athletic in the Gesicki mold rather than physical in the Smythe mold, as Carter is. The Dolphins desire an in line/ blocking tight end more than a receiving tight end.

So there’s a chance the Dolphins require different tight end personnel. But they likely won’t be in contention for any tight ends expected to get the franchise tag or big money.

Guys such as Dallas’ Dalton Schultz and Jacksonvil­le’s Evan Engram could fetch around $9 million per year, according to If the Dolphins wanted to be in that situation, they could re-sign Gesicki.

Perhaps a free agent such as Tennessee’s Geoff Swaim is closer to what the Dolphins desire, or Jacksonvil­le’s Chris Manhertz or Cincinnati’s Drew Sample. They all are known for being blockers first and receivers second.

Teams can begin talking with free agents March 13 and can sign them March 15.

The franchise-tag window opened Tuesday and closes March 7.

Gesicki most likely will depart via free agency. He was given the franchise tag last season, earning $10.9 million, but because his pass-catching skill set didn’t fit the Dolphins’ blocking-first tight end requiremen­ts Gesicki wasn’t utilized in the offense.

The real shame of allowing Gesicki’s talents to go to waste was the Dolphins needed a No. 3 receiver behind Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

There’s a chance the Dolphins’ tight ends only need minimal pass-catching skills because they’ll be clear No. 3 options at best. And if the Dolphins acquire a pass-catching running back, as expected, the tight end could be the No. 4 receiving option.

Smythe, who had 15 receptions for 129 yards and one touchdown last season, is a more accomplish­ed blocker than receiver, which is more aligned with what the Dolphins desire from their tight ends. Their outside zone running scheme benefits greatly from a tight end who can handle linebacker­s and defensive ends.

The draft probably won’t provide the Dolphins what they desire at tight end.

The Dolphins’ first three draft picks are a single pick in the second round (No. 51) and a pair of picks in the third round (Nos. 77 and 84). After that, they have a pick in the sixth round and one in the seventh round.

The Dolphins don’t have a firstround pick.

Look for the Dolphins’ tight ends to be a bigger part of the run game. As for pass protection, the Dolphins’ quick-throwing system often sends as many receivers into routes as possible, with the running back staying in to chip block, so the tight ends might not be integral.

Here’s a look at some of the freeagent tight ends that might interest the Dolphins.

Geoff Swaim, Tennessee: Swaim, 29, is a physical presence who would bolster the Dolphins’ outside zone running game with his blocking ability.

Last season he had 12 receptions for 58 yards and one touchdown. In 2021 he establishe­d career bests for starts (16), receptions (31) and receiving touchdowns (three).

Chris Manhertz, Jacksonvil­le:

Manhertz, 30, is regarded as a high-level blocker. He had six receptions for 42 yards last year, a season in which he lined up as an in line blocker on 93.3% of his snaps for the Jaguars, according to Pro Football Focus.

He started 22 of 34 games for Jacksonvil­le the last two years after spending the previous five seasons in Carolina and his rookie season in New Orleans.

Drew Sample, Cincinnati: Sample, 26, was limited to two games last season due to a knee injury, which is a bit concerning considerin­g a late-season ankle injury landed him on injured reserve as a rookie in 2019. In 2021 he had career bests in receptions (40) and receiving yards (349), but what he does best is block, which fits a Dolphins need.

Tyler Kroft, San Francisco: Kroft, 30, spent last season with San Francisco but should be familiar to the Dolphins because he was with a pair of AFC East rivals recently, having spent 2021 with the Jets and 2019-20 with Buffalo.

He’s a physical blocker who is a capable receiver as evidenced by his career bests in receptions (42), receiving yards (404) and receiving touchdowns (seven) with Cincinnati in 2017. However, foot and chest injuries have slowed him in three of the last five seasons.

Maxx Williams, Arizona: Williams, 28, battled ankle (2020) and knee (2021) injuries that landed him on the injured reserve list in two of the last three seasons. He only played 169 snaps last season and is regarded as a strong in-line blocker who has receiving capabiliti­es.

 ?? JOSHUA BESSEX/AP ?? Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe (81) lines-up during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y.
JOSHUA BESSEX/AP Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe (81) lines-up during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y.

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