In a bit of a surprise move, the Patriots signed former Dolphin Mike Gesicki to a 1-year deal worth up to $9 million on Friday morning.
With Jonnu Smith being traded to the Falcons earlier week, leaving Hunter Henry as the only starting-caliber option on the roster, acquiring a veteran before the draft seemed like a necessary move. Especially with new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien’s affinity for diverse personnel groupings.
But Gesicki seemed like an odd fit given he is more of a big slot receiver than a prototypical in-line tight end or even an H-back. Bill Belichick has said as much himself in the past while breaking down Miami’s roster.
Bill Belichick on Mike Gesicki, when preparing the Patriots to face him in recent years: pic.twitter.com/Bv7i4YENZm
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 17, 2023
Though the Patriots are likely still be in the market for a more traditional tight end, the head coach’s comments show how much respect he has for Gesicki’s skill set. Belichick is also no stranger to bringing former Dolphins over to the dark side. Gesicki also chose to attend Penn State coming out of high school because Bill O’Brien recruited him, though O’Brien left the program for Houston before the two could ever work together.
Now that things have come full circle and the Patriots have another interesting weapon, let’s dive into Gesicki’s game to see where he fits in New England’s offense.
Gesicki is another massive addition to the Patriots’ receiving corp at 6’5″ and just under 250 lbs. What he lacks as a blocker, he more than makes up for as a mismatch weapon who’s too fast for most linebackers and too big for mosr safeties. Beyond his physical attributes, what really separates Gesicki are his magnetic hands, massive catch radius, and toughness through contact.
Though Gesicki has the route running savvy and athleticism to win at the top of the route against most safeties, he’s a player who’s not covered even when blanketed by multiple defenders. Gesicki can also make impressive adjustments to errant or awkward throws and shows exceptional ball-tracking downfield.
Though Gesicki is an exceptional athlete for the tight end position, he lacks much upside after the catch outside of the occasional stiff arm or gallaping through a poor tackle attempt. Still, what he brings downfield makes him a potentially dangerous chess piece.
As I mentioned earlier, Gesicki is more of a big slot receiver than anything else. In fact, his career receiving numbers compare favorably to those of a recent Patriot.
Some of Jakobi Meyers and Mike Gesicki's career receiving averages are scary similar
Meyers: 64.8% slot rate, 10.2 air yards/target, 3.4 YAC/rec, 4.2% drop rate,
Gesicki: 60.3% slot rate, 10.3 air yards/target, 3.4 YAC/rec, 4.0% drop rate
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) March 17, 2023
Gesicki did most of his damage from these alignments on intermediate routes over the middle of the field, mainly crossers and seams where he could box out defenders for chunks of yards. This will likely carry over in New England, where O’Brien can go empty and have both Gesicki and Hunter Henry threatening the seams on HOSS concepts (Hitches Outside, Slot Seams).
Gesicki also spent a lot of time aligned wide for Miami, acting as a 2nd or 3rd wide receiver in some groupings. Henry often lined up as the backside receiver in 3×1 formations to give Mac Jones a coverage indicator, but Gesicki gives them a more dynamic presence who can win in a number of ways.
No team came close to MIA's 12 personnel usage rate from 2020-2021
One of their favorite looks was a 2×2 with Mike Gesicki in a reduced split as the "Z" next to an H-back
His route tree was pretty diverse and his size was a problem for DBs pic.twitter.com/kKnbQFAq2M
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) March 17, 2023
Though Gesicki was rarely attached to the formation as a Dolphin, he could see an uptick in the Patriots’ run- and under-center-heavy offense. If given opportunities to block on the move or at the second level, he could provide just enough value to sneak behind bigger bodied defenders off of play action.
Even if Gesicki serves as the Patriots’ second option at tight end or can’t deliver respectable blocking ability, there is no question an offensive mind like Bill O’Brien will find a way to maximize the tight end’s rare receiving and matchup ability.