Mike Gesicki should add a new, explosive element to the Patriots’ passing game.
But if he doesn’t, the talented tight end at least won’t be much of a financial burden.
The one-year contract Gesicki signed with New England last week is worth up to $9 million, but he’ll need to earn half of that through incentives tied to both playing time and production.
Doug Kyed of A to Z Sports on Friday shared a breakdown of those incentives:
So, to earn his full contract value, Gesicki needs to play at least 80% of New England’s offensive snaps, catch at least 70 passes and tally at least 750 receiving yards. If he hits all of those marks, $9 million would be a bargain, especially compared to the $17.2 million salary cap hit Jonnu Smith was set to carry this season.
The Patriots cut bait with the underperforming Smith last week, trading him to the Atlanta Falcons for a seventh-round draft pick. If Gesicki flops in New England and fails to reach 40 catches, 450 yards or a 46% snap rate — all marks Smith could not hit in 2022 — the Patriots would owe him just $4.5 million.
A poor fit for Mike McDaniel’s offense in Miami, Gesicki posted an uninspiring 32-362-5 receiving line last season. But he topped 700 receiving yards in each of the previous two Dolphins campaigns and caught a career-high 73 passes on 112 targets in 2021.
The 27-year-old is a different type of tight end than the ones New England typically targets, rarely lining up in-line and offering little as a blocker. Patriots coach Bill Belichick has, on multiple occasions, called him “a big receiver.” But he can create matchup problems with his 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame and is a threat in the red zone with 18 touchdowns over the last four seasons.
It will be up to new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to scheme up ways of maximizing the skills of Gesicki and his more traditional position mate, Hunter Henry. Henry isn’t nearly as affordable, with his $15 million cap hit for 2023 ranking second among NFL tight ends behind George Kittle.
O’Brien has led successful two-tight end offenses in the past. Most notably, he was New England’s OC in 2011 when Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez caught more than 200 passes, amassed more than 2,600 yards and scored 29 touchdowns in 19 regular-season and playoff games.
Gesicki and Henry likely won’t come close to matching those totals, but the Patriots will be banking on more tight end production than they got last season, when Henry and Smith combined for 68 passes for 754 yards between them and found the end zone just twice.
With Gesicki and Henry both set to hit free agency next offseason, the Patriots also could look to add another tight end through the 2023 NFL Draft, perhaps one with more blocking prowess. NESN.com’s first two Patriots mock drafts have had them using mid-round picks Iowa’s Sam LaPorta and South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft, respectively.