With Mike Gesicki, Bengals’ new approach at tight end could bring explosive results



The Bengals agreed to terms Tuesday, per multiple reports, with tight end Mike Gesicki on a one-year, $3.5 million contract. The 28-year-old former Dolphins and Patriots tight end ranks 83rd on Randy Mueller’s list of top free agents available.

How he fits

Gesicki slots as a complement to more blocking-based Drew Sample, who received a three-year contract on Monday. Gesicki is much more wide receiver than tight end, but the Bengals learned a thing or two about that player profile last season when Tanner Hudson played that way and was a Joe Burrow favorite in critical moments like third down and in the red zone.

This is a strategic plot twist for the Bengals, who have typically leaned more toward the jack-of-all-trades at the position rather than a predictive player like Gesicki who wouldn’t offer much as a blocker.

2024 impact

This allows the Bengals to lean into exactly who they are when in 11 personnel, the three wide receiver, one tight end package they’ve used more than anyone in the NFL with Burrow. When in 11, it can have a feel of being in four wides, a spread functionality that plays to Burrow’s elite processing and accuracy preference. He’s stated he would always prefer to spread out a team to beat the pass rush by throwing quickly to players capable of getting open in an instant rather than going big and relying on the blocking to hold. Gesicki could take that preference to the next level.

When on the field with Sample, it almost gives a feel of staying in 11 personnel, again, the Bengals’ preferred grouping in nearly every situation. Few have doubted Gesicki’s catch radius at 6-foot-6 and an elite athlete.

History

Welcome aboard, Mr. Gesicki, as the latest participant in the Joe Burrow tight-end train to Paydayville. C.J. Uzomah’s year with Burrow netted him a big contract with the New York Jets. Hayden Hurst’s one year with Burrow got him a big contract with the Carolina Panthers. Even Tanner Hudson went from journeyman on the practice squad to the most productive season of his career and permanent spot in the league thanks to his connection with Burrow. Could Gesicki do the same? The Bengals have found great value in free agency strictly due to Burrow’s reputation of getting veterans paid at this position. Gesicki certainly has the profile to be the next.

Plus, that could lead to many more awkward Griddys (and Griddy lessons).

Cap update

The Bengals still have plenty of room to spend with $6.1 million coming off the cap thanks to Joe Mixon’s trade to Houston. Subtracting that number from Geno Stone, Zack Moss and Gesicki, the cap hit thus far is only around $7 million, give or take depending on the specific details of Moss. That leaves the Bengals still over $40 million to play with and eyes on the trenches.

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Outlook

Gesicki could post huge numbers in this offense. Before going to the offensive disaster that was the Patriots last year, Gesicki averaged 52 receptions, 604 yards, 11.6 yards per reception and 4.5 touchdowns per season over his final four years with the Dolphins. Compare that with the last three years of Cincinnati’s leading receiver at tight end.

Player: Receiving yards / Yards per reception
• Hudson: 352 / 9.0
• Hurst: 414 / 8.0
• Uzomah: 493 / 10.1

The Bengals haven’t come close to that level of explosiveness. And there’s that word again. The theme of the offseason. They desperately want to be more explosive on offense. Between Moss and Gesicki — and tagging Tee Higgins — you can see that emphasis in action. If it works, that could be a scary proposition for NFL defenses.

(Photo: Joe Sargent / Getty Images)





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