The case to keep or trade Gesicki: Former Dolphins coach and NFL evaluator weigh in

Al Diaz/

It was telling that when Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel was asked Thursday if tight end Mike Gesicki definitely will be on the team, he didn’t answer directly.

It was telling that the Dolphins did not publicly deny a Pro Football Focus report that the Dolphins have “brought up” Gesicki’s name in trade discussions, though McDaniel mentioned that reports of that nature can be misleading.

That stood in sharp contrast to the Dolphins’ public handling of the Xavien Howard situation during his contract dispute 13 months, when the team publicly ruled out trading him.

Perhaps Gesicki — one of the league’s best receiving tight ends — stays with the team for another season at $10.8 million.

But he will never be the ideal fit for this specific offense because the Kyle Shanahan/McDaniel offensive system demands effective blocking from tight ends and requires that they play some in line, which isn’t particularly suited to Gesicki, who in some ways is a glorified receiver.

And while Gesicki — to his credit — has worked to become a better blocker, it’s unreasonable to expect that weakness suddenly will become a strength.

That means even if Gesicki sticks around this season — he’s playing on a one-year franchise tag — it’s difficult to see him staying beyond that, with Miami already $2 million over the salary cap for 2023.

So a reasonable case could be made for trading Gesicki, just as a reasonable case could be made for keeping him.

The case to keep him: He makes a good offense even better. He’s a team-first player who handles himself like a professional. He’s going to find seams in opposing defenses that likely will tilt their coverage toward Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. He increases the Dolphins’ playoff chances because good players tend to do that. What’s more, there aren’t many teams that need tight ends with the cap space to acquire him.

The case to deal him: You’re going to likely lose him after this season, so there’s a case to be made for acquiring a second-day draft pick (if one is offered) or a player who could help at another position, or both.

And passes that would have been targeted for Gesicki could instead go to the skilled third and fourth receivers (Cedrick Wilson Jr. and Eric Ezukanma) or perhaps Hunter Long, who has improved.

Because this offense doesn’t often use two tight end sets, Miami could adequately survive at the position with Durham Smythe and Long.

Former Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt, in a piece for the 33rd Team, made a case to keep Gesicki.

“I’m having a tough time figuring out how Mike is not a fit down there,” Wannstedt said. “There’s nothing that puts more pressure [on a defense] than a 6-foot-5, 200-plus pound receiver. You can put him in the box or you can remove him from the box. When he’s in the game, you’re trying to figure out if you want a linebacker or a defensive back to cover him….

“OK, so maybe they say he’s not a great blocker. That was the first thing that came to my mind. When we won the Super Bowl in Dallas, we had Jay Novacek. I think Jay was about 210 pounds and he wasn’t gonna block anybody, but Norv Turner did things with him scheme-wise to make it work. He was blocking down and stalk-blocking, so we found ways because he was too valuable as a receiver for us.”

Before the Gesicki rumors started percolating, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah made this interesting point: “If you can run those [opposing] safeties out of there, like Tyreek Hill is going to be able to do and even Jaylen Waddle, you are going to have a lot of room to roam for Mike Gesicki, who is one of the more athletic tight ends in the league. So it’s that other guys outside of those speed merchants that will help make this a complete offense.”

Whether Gesicki stays or goes, credit him for putting in extra hours to try to improve his blocking and handling all of this like a pro.

“It’s something he has embraced since Day 1,” tight ends coach Jon Embree said. “There have been times it has not been pretty. There are times, he’s probably been like, ‘This sucks.’ But he’s also improved. We had a conversation before [the preseason game in] Tampa. I just wanted to acknowledge to him he has gotten better. I told him he has made good strides. We’re not where we want to be. Still got a ways to go. I wanted him to know he has improved.”

The view here: Keep Gesicki for another season if Miami is offered nothing better than a third- or fourth-round pick. If a team offers a second-round pick, that’s a tougher decision, only because it’s difficult to envision a long-term future in this offense for a cap-challenged team and a player who could command $12 million to $14 million in the open market next spring.

If he stays, then reassess the issue just before the Nov. 1 trade deadline, factoring in the performance of Gesicki and the team at that time, and whether there’s an aggressive suitor to emerge that has a need at the position, due to injuries or other factors.


Even with Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead back in the lineup, the running game still struggled for the most part during Wednesday’s joint practice with the Eagles.

“It’s the No. 1 [goal] for us,” Armstead said of establishing a consistently good running game. “Teams know it’s No. 1, so they’re focusing on stopping that.”

Right tackle Austin Jackson was beaten by an Eagles defensive lineman on a couple of running plays.

The Dolphins never showed interest in former Browns free agent center J.C. Tretter, a good player who retired this week. Tretter attributed the leaguewide lack of interest in him to the fact he is president of the player’s union.

In the Dolphins’ case, they were committed — since the spring — to playing Connor Williams at center and Liam Eichenberg at left guard.

Former Dolphins and Vikings general manager Rick Spielman watched practice the other day and told WQAM’s Joe Rose Show that Jevon Holland “is a future Pro Bowler, will be one of the top players at his position…

“Their defense is going to be very good. I’m excited to see the pass rushers — Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips. I thought Phillips was one of the best pass rushers I’ve seen coming out of the draft. They added Melvin Ingram…

“Cedrick Wilson is going to be an excellent slot for them. From what I’ve seen, Connor Williams is starting to get more comfortable” at center.

Regarding quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Spielman said “by simplifying [things], he should be more effective. [In practice], I saw a lot of play action, a lot of bootlegs. Let’s get him out on the move.”

Former Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson, who attended a joint Dolphins-Eagles practice this week, told WQAM’s Rose that he has spoken with Dolphins general manager Chris Grier in recent weeks and “I think he’s done a fabulous job.”

Regarding rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson, Johnson said: “Chris told me yesterday, this guy beat Oklahoma a couple times. He’s a pretty good player.”