What Adding Mike Gesicki Means For Patriots’ New-Look Offense

Bill Belichick has called Gesicki 'a big receiver'


Mar 17, 2023

The newest addition to the Patriots’ receiving corps is… not a receiver at all.

New England on Friday agreed to terms with former Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki to a one-year, $9 million contract, according to multiple reports.

Despite his listed position, Gesicki is a different breed of tight end than the Patriots traditionally have targeted and should bring a new element to the team’s Bill O’Brien-led offense.

“Gesicki, he’s a big receiver,” head coach Bill Belichick said before a Patriots-Dolphins matchup in 2020. “I mean, he’s not really a conventional tight end, but he’s a tough matchup in the passing game.”

Gesicki is coming off a down 2022 campaign — he was an awkward fit for Mike McDaniel’s scheme and caught just 32 passes for 362 yards — but he topped 700 receiving yards in 2020 and 2021 and has 18 touchdowns over the last four seasons. All Patriots tight ends combined have found the end zone just 15 times during that span, even with Hunter Henry doing so nine times in 2021.

With the Patriots trading the disappointing Jonnu Smith to Atlanta earlier this week to dump his inflated salary, they now look poised to pair Gesicki with Henry in an offense that should feature a heavy dose of two-tight end sets.

O’Brien, the Patriots’ new offensive coordinator, had great success with 12 personnel (1RB, 2TE) during his last stint in that role. He was overseeing New England’s offense in 2011 when Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for 169 catches, 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns in the regular season, plus another 36 receptions for 446 yards and five scores in three playoff games — the most productive season ever by an NFL tight end duo.

O’Brien also has a prior connection with Gesicki from his time as Penn State’s head coach. Gesicki was the jewel of O’Brien’s final Nittany Lions recruiting class, and though O’Brien never actually coached him, he’s spoken highly of him over the years.

Though he has good size at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, Gesicki is not a skilled blocker, so the Patriots will need to be judicious with how they deploy him. In 2021, when caught 73 passes and was targeted 112 times for Miami, he lined up in the slot on 453 snaps, out wide on 252 and in the backfield on 23, per Pro Football Focus, logging just 99 snaps as a traditional in-line tight end.

Wherever they play him, Gesicki’s contested-catch ability should be an asset for the Patriots in the red zone, where they ranked dead last in the NFL in touchdown rate this past season. The 27-year-old ranked second among all tight ends in contested catches in both 2020 and 2021, per PFF, totaling 61 over those two seasons.

“He’s a hard guy to cover,” Belichick said last December. “Long. He’s a good, crafty route-runner. He’s slick. He can get down the field. Very good hands, can make some acrobatic catches and has enough quickness to separate. He’s another hard guy to cover on third down — well, on any down, but when you talk about those possession downs, he’s effective.”

Gesicki joins fellow newcomer JuJu Smith-Schuster in a stable of Patriots pass-catchers that still lacks a Pro Bowl-caliber No. 1 target but should be more potent than its 2022 counterpart, especially with O’Brien now running the show instead of Matt Patricia. Smith-Schuster is a high-ceiling, low-floor replacement for steady top wideout Jakobi Meyers, who signed with the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency.

DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Tyquan Thornton, Lynn Bowden, Tre Nixon and two-way player Marcus Jones round out the group, which could see further additions through free agency, trades or the 2023 NFL Draft.

Drafting a tight end still would be a wise move for New England, as Gesicki and Henry both have contracts that expire next offseason.

Thumbnail photo via Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports Images
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