Miami Dolphins and franchise-tagged Mike Gesicki like each other. But love? We'll see. | Schad

MIAMI GARDENS — It's been nine years since the Dolphins franchise-tagged a player who went on to play for them on the tag that season.

The player was Randy Starks.

In 2013, Starks said he felt the tag was a punishment. Upset with his contract and usage, the defensive end actually gave the Miami sideline a middle finger during the season-opening defeat of Cleveland.

Starks played so well Miami rewarded him with a long-term contract after the season.

This year, tight end Mike Gesicki will play on Miami's franchise tag.

We do not think there is any chance he gives Miami's sideline the middle finger. It's hard to imagine anyone giving Mike McDaniel the middle finger.

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Gesicki is not thrilled that at no point this offseason did he believe a long-term extension with the Dolphins was anywhere close to reality.

Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki takes part in a passing drill during the first day of training camp on Wednesday.

"I'm not a big, you know, complain about it and make a big deal about it," Gesicki said.  "Although it seems like the guys that do get paid a lot of money, so maybe I should have. But I mean, I'm gonna keep coming to work, keep doing what I'm doing."

Gesicki is one of the best pass-receiving tight ends in the NFL.

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But Gesicki noted that in Saturday's training camp practice — in which fans roared as Tua repeatedly connected with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on thrilling pass plays — he was basically relegated to in-line blocker.

"Yeah, I mean, I don't think I took one snap from a receiver stance today," Gesicki said. "So it's definitely different. And but I mean, it is what it is. And I'm excited about it. I'm looking forward to another challenge and other opportunities."

Things could be worse for Gesicki. He'll make $10.9 million this season, which is tied with Dallas' Dalton Schultz for eighth-highest among tight ends in 2022.

But Gesicki has to be concerned whether he'll be featured enough to secure the type of money, say, tight end Mark Andrews just got with the Ravens. Andrews earned a four-year, $56 million deal, including $37.6 million guaranteed.

There are a lot of mouths to feed in Miami's offense, notably receivers Hill, Waddle and Cedrick Wilson and running backs Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert.

There seems little doubt that Gesicki's targets and receptions and yards will decrease this season, and it won't necessarily be his fault. On the other hand, if he can continue to improve into a competent blocker, perhaps he'll earn even more once free.

It's hard to say whether Gesicki will be extended the way they once extended Starks. This sure feels more like a "like" than a "love" dynamic and more like a "let's see how this goes" than "boy, you sure are awesome" kind of relationship.

McDaniel, who is a strong communicator and has pledged to be transparent and direct with players and the media, did speak with Gesicki about the situation.

"We tried to do 10 million reasons why he's liked," McDaniel said, adding, "We try day after day to get your game to the best of its ability so at the end of the year, Mike, you make that franchise tag look like a discount. That means you’ve been playing at a level that makes the Dolphins better and that also improves your socioeconomic status for the long term.”

Yes, blocking still a Gesicki talking point

McDaniel said Gesicki is working closely with position coach Jon Embree and that he "wants to attack blocking with a different severity than he ever has before."

When Gesicki agreed to the franchise tag, he knew what he was signing up for.

"It's not like we sat down and they were like, 'Hey, Mike, like, you want to block?' And I was like, 'Sure,'" Gesicki said. " I mean, it was like, I know what offense we're getting into. And I know, you know, who we hired to be our coach, and what scheme we're gonna be running."

Gesicki also picked the brain of 49ers tight end George Kittle at Tight End U, the all-star camp both attended in the offseason. Kittle, who played for McDaniel last season, spent half of a presentation discussing blocking technique in the outside zone.

It should be helpful. But Gesicki is honest. He's not Kittle. He'll never be close to the blocker Kittle is. And that's probably OK.

It may mean that his long-term future is not in Miami. But that may be OK, too.

"Yeah, I mean, it's a business," Gesicki said. "I mean, the team's gonna do what's best for the team. And then you gotta go out and, you know, perform."

Joe Schad is a journalist at The Palm Beach Post part of the USA Today Florida Network. You can reach him at jschad@pbpost.comHelp support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins play with NFL franchise tag