NFL Free Agency Preview Part 4: Tight Ends – 2023

by Matt Babich · Contracts & Free Agency

Welcome to the NFL Free Agency Preview Part 4: Tight Ends! The 2022 fantasy season is over, which means it’s time to dig into the 2023 free-agent class. Every offseason, there are dozens of moving pieces around the league. These free-agent moves will play a pivotal role in how teams address the NFL draft and will change the fantasy landscape in the upcoming season.

In this four-part series, I’ll highlight the players to watch in the 2023 quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end free agent classes. For each notable free agent, I’ll discuss the likelihood of being re-signed, fitting destinations, and the expected landing spot. 

About the Free Agency Period

The legal tampering window, when preliminary talks can begin with unrestricted free agents, begins March 13, 2023 at 12 pm EST. The free agency window opens up on March 15, 2023 at 4 pm EST. Then, all free agents can begin discussions with NFL teams.

Teams can negotiate with their own players set to hit free agency beginning leading up through the franchise tag deadline of March 7, 2023. The franchise tag period opens up on February 21, 2023. Once a player is tagged, the team will have up until the July 15, 2023 deadline to sign that player to a long-term extension.

Teams with a notable starter or backup on the market

  • Jacksonville (Evan Engram)
  • Dallas (Dalton Schultz)
  • Miami (Mike Gesicki)
  • New Orleans (Juwan Johnson)
  • Green Bay (Robert Tonyan)
  • Tennessee (Austin Hooper)
  • Cincinnati (Hayden Hurst)
  • Las Vegas (Foster Moreau)
  • Minnesota (Irv Smith)
  • Baltimore (Josh Oliver)

Evan Engram

Betting on himself after two straight disappointing seasons, Evan Engram signed a one-year, $9 million deal with the Jaguars. Now, he gets to reap the benefits of a career season. The freak athlete ran the most slot snaps of any tight end, logging an efficient 1.77 (No. 9) Yards per Route Run. He’s also a versatile playmaker, drawing targets deep down the field as well as creating 4.7 Yards After Catch per Target. Finally returning to a top-ten finisher in Fantasy Points per Game, Engram reminded us why he was a first-round pick.

The Jaguars are $20 million over the salary cap limit and have key pieces tied up in tight deals. The good news for Engram is that he’s the team’s highest-valued player hitting free agency. The Jaguars can clear enough cap for the first year of Engram’s new contract by restructuring the contracts of Christian Kirk and Brandon Scherff while releasing Jamaal Agnew. It’ll be a tight squeeze, but the Jaguars are going to do all they can to keep this offensive core together for as long as possible.

Projected Landing Spot: Jacksonville Jaguars

Other Possible Destinations: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Washington Commanders

Dalton Schultz

Although 2022 yielded his lowest production totals since 2019, the season marked Dalton Schultz’s third consecutive season totaling at least 89 targets, 55 receptions, and 550 receiving yards. He’s one of the more sure-handed pass-catchers at his position and is a top-tier YAC generator. His production fell this season as CeeDee Lamb took away precious slot snaps away from the veteran. He enters the market as a top-10 positional producer.

While both parties may desire a return, the Cowboys have multiple highly-valued players hitting the market and only $5 million in current cap space to work with. This makes a return to Dallas more difficult, but the Cowboys can make a few easy moves to free up space and design contracts to keep their top three free agents with the team. This Cowboys’ offensive core is a structure they want to maintain as they look to build a dynasty around Dak Prescott.

Projected Landing Spot: Dallas Cowboys

Other Possible Destinations: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions

Mike Gesicki

Mike Gesicki possesses the most all-around athleticism of any tight end in the NFL but has been drowned in a sea of misuse and low-quality targets. In 2021 he was the secondary target to Jaylen Waddle. On the surface the opportunity was healthy, but a 4.44 (No. 21) Target Quality Rating and a 65.8-percent (No. 28) Catchable Pass Rate led to a multitude of missed opportunities. The entry of Tyreek Hill further limited his opportunities in 2022, and he became an afterthought to the consolidated target share.

Mike Gesicki Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Gesicki is a talented pass catcher, and he proved towards the end of the 2020 season that he can command a significant target volume and produce efficiently as a top target. He needs a team that wants to use him correctly with an accurate quarterback. He needs a fresh start. Even though their program is currently in a questionable state, the Houston Texans will enter the 2023 season with a new franchise quarterback and a new head coach. Stepping in as Houston’s lead tight end and playing alongside either Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud could be the ticket he needs to get his market evaluation back on track.

Projected Landing Spot: Houston Texans

Other Possible Destinations: Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts

Juwan Johnson

Former undrafted free agent Juwan Johnson is about to earn his first seven-figure yearly salary. Scoring seven (No. 4) touchdowns and posting a 22.1-percent (No. 6) Dominator Rating, he was the breakout seldom saw coming. His production was slowed by a sickening 73.8-percent (No. 30) Catchable Target Rate thanks to Andy Dalton’s subpar play. Still, under the age apex with an impressive athletic profile, he’ll enter the market as the fourth most valuable tight end. 

While Johnson is a talented tight end and played a huge role in what little offensive success they had in 2022, the Saints are in cap hell. They are still a whopping $52 million over the cap limit. When the offer sheets come in, they’ll be hard for New Orleans to match. With only Logan Thomas to rely on, the Commanders should be offering Johnson a contract. He has a similar profile to Thomas but is clearly a much bigger boost to the offense as far as talent goes.

Projected Landing Spot: Washington Commanders

Other Possible Destinations: Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals

Robert Tonyan

With only four games of at least 50 yards receiving in his last 30 games, Robert Tonyan’s magical 2020 season is far in the rearview mirror. He failed to earn a significant Target Share following the departure of Davante Adams, maintaining his three-season pace of just under four targets per game. Despite the exiting talent, his role deteriorated, running fewer routes from the slot while drawing fewer targets deep downfield and in the red zone. This, of course, could be due to recovering from his mid-2021 ACL tear.

With only one impressive season under his belt, his market value won’t be steep. Given previous tight-end contracts and the current landscape, Tonyan should reel in a contract worth about $4-6 million of annual value. The Packers are in a tough spot both talent-wise and money-wise, sitting $14 million over the cap space. Especially with Aaron Rodgers having one foot out of the door, Green Bay will need to keep as many offensive pieces together as they can if they hope to be competitive in any sort of way next season. To do that, they’ll find a way to bring back Tonyan.

Projected Landing Spot: Green Bay Packers

Other Possible Destinations: Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals

Austin Hooper

Austin Hooper’s prime is far behind him. After uninspiring production through a season and a half, he was overtaken in the pecking order by rookie Chigozeim Okonkwo. Despite a lack of receiving talent, Hooper logged a disappointing 13.8-percent (No. 22) Target Share and a 61.2-percent (No. 24) Route Participation. At this point in his career, despite being only 28 years old, he’s unable to command a significant target volume.

If the veteran returns to Tennessee, he’ll be playing second fiddle to Okonkwo. Hooper surely wants more opportunity elsewhere, and this year there are likely teams who will meet his value and slot him in as a starter. He fits Detroit’s needs well, as he is a serviceable receiver and a talented blocker. The Lions showed this season they don’t need a 10-million-dollar man at the position, but they certainly could use an upgrade.

Projected Landing Spot: Detroit Lions

Other Possible Destinations: Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Commanders, Tennessee Titans

Hayden Hurst

Hayden Hurst wraps up his unimpressive two-year stint with the Bengals with one game of more than 50 receiving yards and a seasonal high of 439 receiving yards. At 29 years old, he’s now finished below 10 fantasy points per game in all five seasons. He’s a capable pass catcher, but that’s about as kind as you can get with your description.

With Hurst’s connection with Burrow and a cheap market evaluation, the Bengals are in a prime spot to resign the veteran and draft a replacement. He fits well in the pecking order and is a valued blocker for their offense. If they decide to push for a bigger talent, which is very possible, look for Detroit to make a push. They made a statement on not needing a high-end talent such as T.J. Hockenson, and Hurst would be the type of Super Bowl experienced leader that the Lions could use.

Projected Landing Spot: Cincinnati Bengals

Other Possible Destinations: Detroit Lions, Washington Commanders, New Orleans Saints

Foster Moreau

After backing up Darren Waller for three seasons, Foster Moreau will hit the free-agent market with intrigue. He possesses a desirable athletic profile, charting in the 80th-percentile or better in all of PlayerProfiler’s featured Workout Metrics. He’s displayed this athleticism by drawing an 8.1 (No. 9) Average Depth of Target, compiling 4.2 Yards After Catch per Target, and forcing a missed tackle on 18.2-percent of his touches.

Foster Moreau Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Displaying the ability to be a lead tight end in spurts will garner Moreau some attention on the market, but he’ll still be one of the cheapest buys at the position. With 30-year-old Darren Waller playing 11 and nine games in the past two seasons, respectively, the Raiders need a reliable backup option. They’ll make it a priority to extend Moreau but will lose out if another team offers a better chance at more playing time.

Projected Landing Spot: Las Vegas Raiders

Other Possible Destinations: Miami Dolphins, Washington Commanders, Tennessee Titans

Irv Smith

The Vikings going out and trading for T.J. Hockenson and immediately putting him into a high-volume role speaks volumes about the talent of Irv Smith. He’s been a reliable pass catcher and a vertical threat since he came into the league, but there’s not much else to his game. He’s struggled to efficiently produce, win contested catch scenarios, and create yards for himself after the catch. Because of his limitations, he’s been unable to command a 14-percent or higher Target Share in any of his three seasons.

After losing his role to a target hog, Smith’s time in Minnesota is likely over. He’ll try to find a landing spot with a veteran who he can compete with. There will be a team willing to give him a prove-it deal this offseason, and the Lions could reap the benefits of doing so. I already predicted Austin Hooper to become a Lion, but adding Smith as well could make for a cheap duo with complementary skillsets.

Projected Landing Spot: Detroit Lions

Other Possible Destinations: Miami Dolphins, Washington Commanders, Tennessee Titans

Josh Oliver

As an ode to PlayerProfiler great Ahaan Rungta, I’ll highlight a lesser-known name with an interesting profile hitting the market. Josh Oliver, who just completed his third season at age 26, possesses solid size-adjusted speed and adequate burst. He was a raw prospect coming into the league, breaking out late at San Jose State, but still recorded a 20-percent (66th-percentile) College Dominator Rating. In Week 12 of this season, Oliver drew six targets and compiled 76 receiving yards and a touchdown on four receptions.

That one game alone could convince the right team to take a shot on him. With Isaiah Likely still under contract, Oliver will likely opt to prove his talent elsewhere.

Projected Landing Spot: New Orleans Saints

Other Possible Destinations: Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins


  • Evan Engram: Jacksonville → Jacksonville
  • Dalton Schultz: Dallas → Dallas
  • Mike Gesicki: Miami → Houston
  • Juwan Johnson: New Orleans → Washington
  • Robert Tonyan: Green Bay → Green Bay
  • Austin Hooper: Tennessee → Detroit
  • Hayden Hurst: Cincinnati → Cincinnati
  • Foster Moreau: Las Vegas → Las Vegas
  • Irv Smith: Minnesota → Detroit
  • Josh Oliver: Baltimore → New Orleans


The free agent tight end class is not usually stacked, and this year is no exception. Still, the moves that are made will change how we’ll approach our fantasy drafts this summer. There have been very few official reports on free agents since the season has not yet ended, so take any predictions as conjecture. Thanks for reading and following along with each volume, breaking down all of 2023’s notable free agents!