New England Patriots

2024 NFL free agents: Ranking the top 10 tight ends

Dalton Schultz and Hunter Henry are the best tight ends who could hit the market.

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It's not a good year to need a tight end.

NFL free agency begins in March, and there isn't a top-tier tight end expected to hit the open market. None of the tight ends who ranked top 10 in receiving yards at the position will be free agents this offseason.

Complicating matters is the fact that the 2024 draft class isn't loaded with high-end talent at tight end, either. University of Georgia star Brock Bowers is an elite talent, but he is one of just four tight ends ranked in draft expert Dane Brugler's recent top 100 prospects big board. We likely will have a fifth straight draft without multiple tight ends taken in Round 1.

Depth is important at tight end given the physical nature of the position. And while there are no star tight ends hitting the market, there are several good players who can slot in as a No. 2 tight end and be productive in the right system.

Here's our ranking of the top 10 free agent tight ends of 2024.

10. Pharaoh Brown, Patriots

2023 Stats: 17 GP, 13 Rec, 208 Yards, 1 TD

Brown isn't going to put up huge stats, but he's a smart player who blocks well and is capable of making some plays in the passing attack. He played in all 17 games for the first time last season, while also tallying a career high in receiving yards. The Patriots should give serious consideration to re-signing Brown as a depth tight end.

UPDATE (March 12): Brown is signing a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

9. Irv Smith, Bengals

2023 Stats: 12 GP, 18 Rec, 115 Yards, 1 TD

Smith is a talented pass-catching tight end. The issue for him is durability. He missed five games in 2023, nine in 2022 and four in 2021. But when healthy, Smith can be a productive player.

UPDATE (March 12): Smith is joining the Kansas City Chiefs on a one-year deal, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

8. Mike Gesicki, Patriots

2023 Stats: 17 GP, 29 Rec, 244 Yards, 2 TD

Gesicki was supposed to be a meaningful addition to the Patriots offense but he was, frankly, disappointing in 2023. His receptions, receiving yards, targets and touchdowns all declined from 2022. In fairness, the Patriots' awful quarterback play probably was a contributor there. However, he has now put together back-to-back seasons of sub-400 receiving yards despite not missing a single game during that span. It's possible that Gesicki's breakout 2021 season, which saw him post career highs of 73 receptions and 780 yards, was merely an outlier.

We know Gesicki isn't much of a blocker, but he remains a decent red zone target and could be more productive in an offense that uses his talents better.

UPDATE (March 12): Gesicki is signing a one-year deal worth up to $3.25 million with the Cincinnati Bengals, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

7. Colby Parkinson, Seahawks

2023 Stats: 17 GP, 25 Rec, 247 Yards, 2 TD

It's hard to miss Parkinson when he's on the field. He is 6-foot-7 and 253 pounds. Parkinson could see a larger role in Seattle next season if he re-signs and Fant does not. He's not a very good blocker, though, which could be a problem for some teams. He does have some intriguing upside as a pass-catcher given his wide receiver experience from college.

UPDATE (March 11): Parkinson is heading to the Los Angeles Rams via a three-year, $22.5 million contract, per NFL Media's Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport.

6. Adam Trautman, Broncos

2023 Stats: 17 GP, 22 Rec, 204 Yards, 3 TD

The Broncos didn't get great production from tight ends last season, but Trautman was the best of the bunch. His three touchdown catches were a career high. Trautman is not the greatest pass-catcher, but he's a very good blocking tight end at 6-foot-5 and 253 pounds. Those kinds of players will always have value.

UPDATE (March 13): Trautman will stay with the Broncos on a two-year contract.

5. Austin Hooper, Raiders

2023 Stats: 17 GP, 25 Rec, 234 Yards, 0 TD

Rookie Michael Mayer emerged as the top tight end in Las Vegas by the end of the season, so it wouldn't be shocking if Hooper moved on. He saw declines in all of his basic stats in 2023, but in fairness, the Raiders' quarterback play was pretty lackluster throughout the campaign. Hooper hasn't missed a game since 2021 and has never fumbled in eight pro seasons.

UPDATE (March 12): The New England Patriots are signing Hooper to a one-year contract worth up to $4.25 million, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

4. Noah Fant, Seahawks

2023 Stats: 17 GP, 32 Rec, 414 Yards, 0 TD

Fant's streak of four straight seasons with three or more touchdown catches ended in 2023 when he failed to find the end zone once. He also saw declines in receptions and receiving yards, although much of this drop-off was largely due to usage and not some crazy regression in his talent. He's only 26 years old and one of the more athletically gifted tight ends with good speed and size at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds.

UPDATE (March 11): The Seahawks are re-signing Fant to a two-year, $21 million deal.

3. Gerald Everett, Chargers

2023 Stats: 16 GP, 51 Rec, 411 Yards, 3 TD

Everett is a productive veteran tight end with back-to-back seasons of at least 51 receptions, 411 yards and three touchdowns for the Chargers. He's also a strong red zone target with his size at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds.

One concern with Everett is ball security. He fumbled twice in 2021 and a career-high three times last season.

UPDATE (March 12): Everett is joining the Chicago Bears on a two-year, $12 million deal.

2. Hunter Henry, Patriots

2023 Stats: 14 GP, 42 Rec, 419 Yards, 6 TD

The Patriots should seriously consider re-signing Henry. He's been one of their best free agency additions in the post-Tom Brady era. Henry has tallied 17 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Patriots, and he's only missed three games during that span. He's a reliable red-zone target and a trustworthy option on third down. Henry is 29 years old, so this might be his last chance to get a good-sized contract.

UPDATE (March 8): The Patriots re-signed Henry to a three-year, $27 million contract.

1. Dalton Schultz, Texans

2023 Stats: 15 GP, 59 Rec, 635 Yards, 5 TD

Schultz, who signed a one-year contract with the Texans last offseason, was a trusted target for rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud in Houston. He's been a pretty consistent player, with four consecutive seasons of at least 55 receptions, 575 yards and four touchdowns.

Schultz told SportsRadio610 in Houston last week that “I’d love to be in Houston. There’s no doubt about that. I loved my time. Special organization, special quarterback. Love the scheme, love the coaches, I’ve loved everything about Houston. I’m confident that we can find some common ground.”

UPDATE (March 5): Shultz is staying in Houston on a three-year, $36 million deal according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

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