Tight end isn’t one of the burning needs for this Falcons roster, but like everything else, it’s a place the team could stand to add to.
The good news: Kyle Pitts should be back and healthy, giving the Falcons a top-flight receiving option who should bounce back in a major way in 2023. They also have Parker Hesse, a tremendous blocking option who is also an occasionally useful receiver, and a pair of young developmental options in John FitzPatrick and Feleipe Franks.
What that group is missing, barring a huge leap forward from Franks, is a compelling second pass-catching option, especially because Pitts does not exclusively operate as an in-line tight end. With that in mind, let’s look at who the Falcons might bring in if they want another high-end starter, who might be worth having around to compete for snaps, and who they might target if they simply want to add depth.
We’ve been waiting for Engram, a tremendous talent, to finally put it all together. He did so in a high-octane Jaguars passing attack, putting up career-best numbers across the board.
Injury has held Engram back over the years, but in a 17 game season in Jacksonville, he was absolutely stellar, with nearly a 75% catch rate, a 6.4 yards after the catch average that tied the great George Kittle for 31st in the NFL and top five among tight ends overall, and solid enough blocking to tie the whole thing together.
I know you have to wonder about whether he can stay healthy heading into his age 29 season, but if the Falcons are serious about adding a big-time weapon and are prioritizing an upgrade at tight end, Engram is the guy.
If your priority is to add another pass-catching weapon to this offense and you’re not too hung up on that player being a less-than-stellar blocker, you might consider Gesicki.
The pros here are that Gesicki is a huge, fast target, one who has never been a full-time #1 tight end but still has been productive as a receiver, with 231 grabs, 2,617 yards, and 18 touchdowns over five seasons. He’ll be just 28 years old this year and might thrive in an offense willing to feed him targets.
The downside? Gesicki’s blocking is nothing to write home about and never has been, and he’s struggled at times with using his natural size and gifts to get open, which led to a reduced role this year in Mike McDaniel’s offense. As a buy-somewhat-low candidate who could give the Falcons a pair of hulking quasi-tight ends, Gesicki is interesting.
A Divisional Round goat for some inexplicable mistakes, Schultz is another useful receiving tight end with a poor reputation for blocking. He’s likely a slight upgrade on Gesicki in that last regard and does more with the ball after he catches it—Schultz had six broken tackles and 3.6 yards per reception after the catch, compared to one broken tackle and just 3 YAC for Gesicki—but he’s best as a short-to-intermediate option and functions best as a more hyped Austin Hooper.
That’s unlikely to be worth the price tag Schultz will command, but if he doesn’t have a hot market the Falcons will probably sniff around. He does enough things well to be interesting, but isn’t going to be a transformative option.
He should be at the top of the list if the Falcons aren’t looking to get a high-end receiving option to pair with Pitts. Pruitt finished the season on a tear, serving as the team’s most consistent red zone option, and showed he can be an at-times dangerous receiver in addition to his tremendous work as a blocker. Given his familiarity with Arthur Smith and this offense and the caliber of his work after joining the roster partway through the season, it’d be difficult to do anything but celebrate Pruitt’s return.
Irv Smith Jr.
He’ll be 24 when the season kicks off, and it’s clear you’ll be able to buy low on him after some disappointing, injury-marred seasons in Minnesota. To get a player as young as Smith who is a capable blocker and a potentially dynamic receiver in the mix would be a boon for the Falcons, though, as he’d have room to grow with a good coaching staff and could be a long-term part of the position group in Atlanta.
A bit of a bulldozer, Moreau was targeted frequently within six yards and tacked on an average of over seven yards after the catch, good for 21st in the NFL and the third-best mark among tight ends. He drops too many passes and isn’t a particularly shifty threat, but with quality blocking chops, some red zone ability, and a proven track record of running through and over defenders en route to more yardage after the catch, Moreau could be a fun addition for a team that wants to add YAC threats.
Is a reunion in order? Hooper had his best season since leaving Atlanta, and continues to be a sure-handed possession option who has improved his blocking since his early days with the Falcons. If the team is looking for a high-end reserve with a well-rounded game and they’re not bringing back Pruitt, Hooper is a logical option.
After watching his usage dwindle in Atlanta, I don’t think Hurst would be keen to return under the current coaching staff. If those bridges could be mended, Hurst showed in 2022 what he’s capable of, emerging as a consistent receiving threat for the Bengals and delivering some of the better marks of his career.
- Josh Oliver
- Robert Tonyan Jr.
- Zach Gentry
The only former Titans tight end who hasn’t somehow landed in Atlanta, Swaim is a capable blocker who doesn’t offer much as a receiver, making him somewhat of a Parker Hesse-lite. If the Falcons aren’t sold on FitzPatrick, Swaim could be an option as their final blocking tight end, or at least summer competition.
Still a good athlete and a capable enough blocker, Saubert was a useful reserve for the Broncos last year and does just enough of everything well to make him a rock-solid depth option.
- Chris Manhertz
- Marcedes Lewis
- Ryan Griffin
- Kyle Rudolph
- Dan Arnold
- Eric Tomlinson
Who would you bring on board from this free agent class?