2023 NFL Free Agency Tracker: Tight Ends


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2023 NFL Free Agency Tracker: Tight Ends

The Fantasy Points staff is covering every major skill player transaction from the 2023 off-season in our 2023 NFL Free Agency Tracker articles. We broke down all the important free agency signings and trades from a fantasy perspective in articles sorted by position. The articles are ordered by players changing teams ("New Homes") and by players sticking with their 2022 teams ("Staying Put"). The players are also ordered by their potential fantasy impact for the 2023 season in each section. Be sure to also check out Graham Barfield’s “Fantasy Fallout” pieces on the biggest transactions of the off-season.

We’ll also be constantly updating our Best Ball rankings if you’re looking to get an early start to draft season with our friends over at Underdog Fantasy (Promo code: FANTASYPTS). New signups to Underdog get both a deposit match of up to $100 and a Fantasy Points Standard subscription for just $5.

NOTE: Players are loosely ranked based on talent, age, plus previous and expected future fantasy relevance.

New Homes

Darren Waller (NYG, 30) — The Giants acquired Waller in exchange for the 100th overall pick, which New York acquired in the Kadarius Toney trade at the 2022 deadline (per Tom Pelissero).

Fantasy Points: The Giants desperately needed to upgrade their receiving corps but this year’s WR free agency class is lacking in difference-makers. New York turned its attention to the trade market to land one of the league’s premier TEs when he’s been healthy. Waller posted consecutive seasons with 90+ catches and 1100+ yards in 2019-20 when he finished as the TE5 and TE2 in FPG, respectively, but he mustered just 83/1053/5 receiving in 20 combined games over the last two seasons. In 2022, Waller posted 28/388/3 receiving (13.9 YPR) on 43 targets (14.4% share) to finish as the TE9 with 9.4 FPG. He played on 58% of the snaps and ran 246 routes (27.3 per game) in nine contests, missing eight games for his hamstring issues. Davante Adams replaced Waller as Derek Carr’s go-to receiver in Las Vegas last season, and he became expendable after the Raiders signed Jakobi Meyers to open free agency. Waller has the chance to return to #1 receiver status in a Giants’ receiving corps that’s lacking in top-end talent. Daniel Bellinger led New York TEs with 35 targets and the group finished with the fewest targets at the position, but Dawson Knox finished as the TE9 (10.9 FPG) with 49/587/9 receiving in Brian Daboll’s final season with the Bills in 2021. Evan Engram also previously posted a solid 5.9 targets and 3.5 receptions per game playing with Jones in 2020-21 under dysfunctional conditions with Joe Judge. The Giants finished with the eighth-fewest pass attempts per game (30.6) last season, but Jones’ contract extension and Daboll’s coaching history suggest this will be a more pass-heavy outfit in 2023 with Waller improving this receiving corps. His ADP (84, TE8) is set to rise by at least two rounds with his opportunity to get back to 100+ targets, and he’ll live up to that ADP if he’s able to stay healthy, which is a big if after the last two seasons.

Fantasy Points Data: Waller finished with the second-lowest TE inline route run rate at 11.4% among TEs with 150+ routes…He led all TEs with an aDOT of 13.6 yards but finished last with just 2.9 yards of YAC per reception among 44 qualifying TEs.

Check out Graham Barfield’s Fantasy Fallout piece for more about Waller’s trade to the Giants.

Dalton Schultz (Hou, 27) — Schultz signed a one-year deal with the Texans worth up to $9 million (per Tom Peliserro).

Fantasy Points: Schultz found an awfully cold market for his services, settling for a prove-it deal for 2023 in hopes of finding a better market next off-season. His 2022 season got off to a rough start with Dak Prescott suffering a thumb injury in the season opener before Schultz picked up his own MCL sprain. His season got on track in Week 7 with Dak returning to the lineup, averaging 11.6 FPG in his final 11 games to rank as the TE6 in that span. He even added 12/122/3 receiving in two postseason games for good measure. Overall, Schultz posted 57/577/5 receiving (10.1 YPR) on 89 targets (19.0% share) to finish as the TE9 with 9.6 FPG. He played on 79% of the snaps and ran 418 routes (27.9 per game) in 15 contests, missing two games for his knee injury. Schultz isn’t a field stretcher with a career aDOT of 7.0 yards, but he’s a consistent receiver in the middle of the field with a 70.2% catch rate and 103 first-down receptions over the last three seasons. The Stanford product is a strong inline player and has become a red-zone weapon with the fifth-most receiving TDs (17) at the position since 2020.

Schultz failed to find a top-of-the-market deal, and he’s going to take a step back for fantasy by leaving Dallas’ pass-heavy environment. He at least has a path to become Houston’s top target with just Robert Woods, Nico Collins, and potentially John Metchie currently in the mix at receiver. Schultz could easily become the security blanket for whomever the Texans select with the #2 overall pick, but his fantasy upside will be capped playing with a rookie quarterback in an unfamiliar offense. His ADP (108, TE10) looks fair at the moment as a volume-based low-end TE1, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he becomes a small value if his ADP dips a bit moving from one of the league’s best offenses to one of the worst.

Irv Smith (Min, 25) — The Bengals and agreed to terms on a one-year deal (per Peter Schrager).

Fantasy Points: The Bengals will piece together the tight end position for the second straight year, luring Smith to play with Joe Burrow on a prove-it deal. It worked for Hayden Hurst who landed $13 million guaranteed from the Panthers after one season playing with Burrow, and C.J. Uzomah landed $15 million guaranteed during the 2021 off-season. The Vikings had big expectations for Irv when they drafted him 50th overall out of Alabama in 2019, but his career never took off in Minnesota for several reasons. Smith shared the positional duties with Kyle Rudolph in 2019-20 before a slew of injuries slowed his progress the last two years after the Vikings cleared the deck for him to be the man. He missed the entire 2021 season for a torn meniscus before needing thumb surgery in August 2022, which slowed his progress early last season. Smith turned in 22/168/2 receiving in six games in Weeks 2-8 prior to suffering a high-ankle injury, which prompted Minnesota to cut their losses and trade for his 2019 TD classmate, T.J. Hockenson, two days after his injury. Overall, Smith posted 25/182/2 receiving (7.3 YPR) on 36 targets (13.8% share) to finish as the TE24 with 6.9 FPG in 2022. He played on 53% of the snaps and ran 178 routes (10.5 per game) in eight contests, missing nine games for multiple injuries. Irv will turn just 25 years old in August and theoretically has some untapped potential if he can avoid the injury bug for an extended amount of time. I wrote in our Tight End Free Agency Preview that Smith should “follow the route of a player like Hayden Hurst from last off-season and take a short-term deal to play in a good situation to boost his value for 2024.” That’s exactly what he did and I’m much more bullish about Irv’s fantasy upside in 2023 than Hayden showed last season. Hurst finished with 4+ receptions in 11-of-16 games overall (postseason included) but averaged just 8.0 YPR and 1.07 yards per route run. Smith will have the chance to be a high-end streaming option like Hurst and Uzomah the last two seasons, and he has the potential to be more than that if he can stay healthy for the first time since 2020.

Mike Gesicki (NE, 27) — Gesicki and the Patriots agreed to terms on a one-year, $9 million contract.

Fantasy Points: Gesicki will finally get to play for Bill O’Brien a decade after O’Brien recruited him to play at Penn State only to leave for the Texans before Gesicki had the chance to take a snap under him. Gesicki is a wide receiver disguised by a tight end label, and the new Dolphins regime apparently didn’t realize that fact when they franchise tagged him last off-season. The worst fears for his usage came true when Mike McDaniel had no plan on how to implement Gesicki into an offense that required its tight end to be a factor in the run game. He played on a miserable 45% of the snaps and ran 354 routes (20.8 per game) in 17 contests, playing fewer snaps than Durham Smythe and running fewer routes than Trent Sherfield. Gesicki previously played 62% of the snaps or more and ran 473 routes or more in each of his previous three seasons. It didn’t help that Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle commanded a 49.1% target share, which resulted in Gesicki seeing his receptions dip from 73 in 2021 to 32 in 2022. He posted just 32/362/5 receiving (11.3 YPR) on 52 targets (9.7% share) to finish as the TE30 with 5.8 FPG. He ranked fifth in aDOT (10.4) among TEs with 25+ targets and has scored 5+ TDs in three of his last four seasons. O’Brien should have a better plan for how to use Gesicki this season, and he’ll be in a passing game with no true studs at receiver. The problem is he’ll still be stuck in a TE timeshare with Hunter Henry and he’s best in the slot, which is the primary position of the recently acquired JuJu Smith-Schuster. I won’t actively target Gesicki at his ADP (173, TE20) since he figures to be a volatile weekly option, but he should have some spike weeks to make him a little more appealing for Best Ball formats.

Fantasy Points Data: Gesicki ran over 75% of his routes on the outside or in the slot in 2022 after running 98% of his routes out wide or in the slot in 2021…He averaged .64 yards per route run on the outside, .92 YPRR in the slot, and 1.76 YPRR lined up inline last season.

Austin Hooper (Ten, 28) — Hooper and the Raiders reached terms on a one-year, $2.8 million contract worth up to $3.5 million in incentives.

Fantasy Points: The suddenly TE-needy Raiders settled for Hooper and O.J. Howard in free agency after trading away Darren Waller and with Foster Moreau no longer an option because of a cancer diagnosis. Hooper is entering his eighth season at just 28 years old, and he owns a pair of top-9 TE finishes from his time with Matt Ryan in 2018-19. He’s mostly fallen off the fantasy radar over the last three seasons as he’s been stuck in heavy TE committees in his last two stops with the Browns and Titans. Hooper posted 146 receptions on 185 targets and 970 routes with the Falcons in 2018-19 before mustering just 125 receptions on 191 targets and 927 routes in 2020-22. In his first season with the Titans, he finished with 41/444/2 receiving (10.8 YPR) on 60 targets (14% share) to finish as the TE32 with 5.7 FPG. He played on 51% of the snaps and ran 320 routes (18.8 per game) in 17 contests. It took time to get a passing-game role in Tennessee, but he at least had 5+ FP in 10 of his final 12 games after failing to hit that mark in his first five games. Hooper needs volume to be fantasy relevant as he’s scored on just 5.3% of his targets (25 of 468) and owns a 10.2 YPR average. He found one of the best destinations to have a chance to be the top option at the position. Hooper has just Howard currently in his way, who totaled just 24/280/3 receiving the last two seasons since his Achilles injury in 2020. Hooper will also move to a more pass-heavy team going from the Titans to the Raiders, which gives him a chance to be a low-end TE2 playing with Jimmy Garoppolo.

Hayden Hurst (Car, 29) — Hurst and the Panthers agreed to terms on a three-year (per Jeremy Fowler).

Fantasy Points: Hurst wisely chose to take a one-year, prove-it deal to jump to the top of Cincinnati’s depth chart and play with Joe Burrow, and he was rewarded with a multi-year deal this off-season. He posted 52/414/2 receiving (8.0 YPR) on 68 targets (14.3% share) to finish as the TE19 with 8.1 FPG. He played on 61% of the snaps and ran 388 routes (29.8 per game) in 13 contests, missing three games for his calf issue. Hurst has developed into a boring but reliable target in the middle of the field, finishing with 4+ receptions in 11-of-16 games overall (postseason included). His YPR has fallen in each of his five seasons (12.5>11.6>10.2>8.5>8.0), and his yards per route run hasn’t reached 1.10+ in three straight seasons — he’s now averaging just 1.07 YPRR for his career. Hurst immediately jumps to the top of the black hole that’s been Carolina’s TE depth chart since Greg Olsen was last fantasy relevant in 2016. The Panthers also have no one at WR after trading D.J. Moore, which means Hurst could be one of the top targets for whomever the Panthers select with the top overall pick in late April. With that said, Hurst looks like a fantasy trap even at his cheap ADP (202, TE27). He’s an inefficient receiver who will be playing with a rookie quarterback under a head coach in Frank Reich who likes to spread snaps around to his entire TE room.

Fantasy Points Data: Hurst’s aDOT fell from 6.5 in 2021 to 5.0 in 2022, which was the third lowest among TEs with at least 25 targets…His 3.6 yards after the catch per reception was the seventh lowest among TEs with at least 25 targets.

Others Changing Teams

O.J. Howard (LV, 28) — Howard and the Raiders agreed to terms on a one-year deal. The 2017 first-round pick has been unable to get his career back on track the last two years with the Bills and Texans after tearing his Achilles four games into 2020, totaling just 24/280/3 receiving on 44 targets and 278 routes. Howard has a path to the top of Las Vegas’ decimated TE depth chart but the Raiders will continue to add players before the start of the season. Howard has never reached 35+ catches and he’s topped 500+ receiving yards once with 565 yards in 2018, so he’s a weak bet to dramatically turn around his career even if his path to playing time remains open.

Jonnu Smith (Atl, 28) — The Falcons acquired Smith from the Patriots in exchange for a seventh-round pick. New England signed Smith to a four-year, $50 million contract two years ago, but he managed just 55/539/1 receiving on 83 targets in 30 games in 2021-22. The Patriots get some much-needed cap relief by moving Smith while Jonnu reunites with his longtime coach Arthur Smith, who was his position coach in 2017-18 before becoming Tennessee’s offensive coordinator in 2019-20. Jonnu has never reached 450+ receiving yards or 45+ receptions in six seasons, and his only hope for fantasy relevance is if Kyle Pitts misses extended time next season.

Robert Tonyan (Chi, 29) — Tonyan and the Bears agreed to terms on a one-year contract. He came out of relative obscurity for a TE5 fantasy performance in 2020, but he’s drifted back into obscurity over the last two years. He scored 11 TDs on just 59 targets in 2020, which was one of just three double-digit TD seasons in NFL history with 60 or fewer targets. He’s since scored just four TDs on 96 targets over 25 games in 2021-22 — he missed the final nine games of 2021 for an ACL injury. He posted 53/470/2 receiving (8.9 YPR) on 67 targets (12.5% share) to finish as the TE25 with 6.6 FPG in 2022. He played on 54% of the snaps and ran 370 routes (21.8 per game) in 17 contests. Tonyan’s YPR (11.3 to 8.9) and his aDOT (10.0 to 6.0) plummeted from 2021 to 2022 in his first season back from injury and with Green Bay’s offense going in the dumps without Davante Adams. Tonyan will be off the fantasy radar to start 2023 as the #2 TE behind starter Cole Kmet.

Josh Oliver (Min, 26) — The Vikings and Oliver reached terms on a three-year, $21 million contract with $10.8 million guaranteed and incentives up to $24 million (per Mike Garafolo). Minnesota made a huge splash at tight end when they acquired T.J. Hockenson at last season’s trade deadline, which makes this a bit of a curious move. Oliver entered the league as an intriguing receiver with a 4.47-second 40-yard dash at 6’5”, 249 pounds, but he’s been much more impactful as a blocker for the Ravens. Oliver’s signing paired with the release of Adam Thielen could be a sign that Kevin O’Connell is scaling back their heavy 11 personnel usage after they finished third in pass rate (64.4%) last season.

Hunter Long (LAR, 25) — The Rams acquired Long and a third-round pick for Jalen Ramsey. The Dolphins selected Long in the third round of 2021 but played just 183 total offensive snaps in 16 games the last two seasons, failing to beat out Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe for playing time. The Rams clearly coveted Long since he was added to the trade, but he’ll open the season as the #2 TE, at best, behind Tyler Higbee.

Jordan Akins (Cle, 31) — Akins and the Browns agreed to terms on a two-year deal worth up to $5.2 million in incentives. Akins is coming off a career-best campaign with 37/495/5 receiving on 54 targets to finish as the TE20 with 7.8 FPG, and he did it on just a 44% snap share and 303 routes (20.2 per game) in 15 contests. He’s reached 400+ receiving yards and 35+ receptions in three of his first five seasons since being drafted in the third round by the Texans in 2018. He’ll compete with Harrison Bryant to be the #2 option behind David Njoku and there’s an outside chance he could be a thorn in the side of Njoku’s fantasy value.

Andrew Beck (Hou, 27) — The Texans signed Beck to a two-year, $6.8 million contract. He’s coming off a career-high 9/90 receiving on a 23% snap share in 13 games as a tight end/fullback for the Broncos in 2022. Beck could be Houston’s version of Kyle Juszczyk in OC Bobby Slowik’s new offense.

Chris Manhertz (Den, 31) — Manhertz and the Broncos agreed to terms on a two-year, $6 million deal with $3.3 million guaranteed (per Adam Schefter). He’s never cleared 75+ receiving yards in seven seasons and he’ll be used as a blocker after registering a 38% snap share with the Jaguars last season.

Tommy Sweeney (NYG, 28) — Sweeney and the Giants came to terms on a contract. He’s primarily been an inline blocker for the Bills since entering the league in 2019 as he owns just 18 career catches.

Staying Put

Evan Engram (Jax, 28) — The Jaguars are expected to franchise tag Engram at a hit of $11.3 million (per Adam Schefter). The two sides have until mid-July to work on a long-term contract.

Fantasy Points: Engram is coming off a career season after settling for a one-year, prove-it deal with the Jaguars after his career went south in a bad situation with the Giants. It was a wise decision to attach himself to HC Doug Pederson and the ascending Trevor Lawrence in a bounce-back campaign for the Jaguars. Pederson had a plan to get the rock to Engram out in space, as he finished with the third-most slot receptions (33) and second-most catches on screens (18) among TEs. Overall, he posted 73/766/4 receiving (10.5 YPR) on 98 targets (17.1% share) to finish as the TE7 with 10.4 FPG. Engram played 77% of the snaps and ran 523 routes (30.8 per game) in 17 contests. He finished fourth in receiving yards (766), fourth in targets (97), second in YAC (481), and tied for third in receptions (73) among TEs. The one slight cause for concern is that his aDOT sat at just 6.4 yards, which was the fourth time in the last five years his aDOT has failed to top 6.5 yards. Engram is currently the TE7 off the board with an ADP of 91.8 after his late-season run at a weak fantasy position. It could be a challenge to keep up his momentum, with Calvin Ridley expected to be reinstated from his indefinite suspension to add another mouth to feed in this passing attack. Engram is at least tied to one of the most promising young QBs and a playcaller who had a weekly plan to get him involved.

Others Staying Put

Juwan Johnson (NO, 26) — Johnson, who entered the off-season as a restricted free agent, signed a two-year contract to remain with the Saints. He broke out in his third season with 42/508/7 receiving on 65 targets (14.4% share) to finish as TE18 with 8.4 FPG. He played 65% of the snaps and ran 365 routes (22.8 per game) in 16 contests. Johnson is hoping to follow the playing-career trajectory of Darren Waller with Derek Carr and his ADP (191, TE22) is certainly appealing.

Zach Gentry (Pit, 26) — The Steelers retained Gentry for the upcoming season. The massive TE (6’8”, 265 pounds) caught exactly 19 passes in each of the last two seasons, and his return is a slight downgrade for Pat Freiermuth considering he owned a 50% snap share last season as the #2 TE.

Donald Parham (LAC, 26) — Parham settled on a new deal with the Chargers as an unrestricted free agent after the two sides couldn’t initially come to terms on a contract when he was a restricted free agent. His size (6’8”, 237 pounds) make him an intriguing goal-line threat, but he’s yet to reach 200+ receiving yards in his first three campaigns. He’ll compete with Tre’ McKitty for playing time behind Gerald Everett.

Ross Dwelley (SF, 28) — Dwelley and the 49ers agreed to a one-year contract. He’s mustered just 7/156 receiving on 10 targets over the last two seasons as the #3 TE behind George Kittle.

Eric Saubert (Mia, 29) — Saubert signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins. He finished with career-highs in targets (24), receptions (15), and receiving yards (148) but he’s a long way from the fantasy radar.

Jesper Horsted (LV, 26) — Horsted and the Raiders agreed to a deal after he owned just a 6% snap share in 15 games last season.

Blake Bell (KC, 32) — The Chiefs re-signed Bell, who will play his fourth season in the last five years with the Chiefs. He’s failed to reach double-digit receptions or 100+ receiving yards in six of his last seven seasons.

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 64.3% clip last season and he owned the last undefeated team out of 3000 entries in Scott Fish Bowl 12.