Free Agency Winners and Losers: Tight Ends

Signing, trading, and retaining players can help or hurt players early in the offseason. Dustin Ludke takes a look at the tight ends who won and lost in the free agency period.

Tight end for years has been a hard position for fantasy owners. There have been a few good ones, but the position has otherwise been defined by mediocrity. Overall, it’s been a crapshoot to find the next diamond in the rough. How the tight ends fared during free agency could lend an upper hand to the fantasy managers in identifying potential breakouts.

 

Winners

 

Gerald Everett: Los Angles Chargers

Justin Herbert threw 8 touchdowns to tight ends in 2021, which put the team in the top echelon of tight-end production. Those touchdowns went to Jared Cook and Donald Parham, and Cook has now been replaced by the much younger Gerald Everett. Everett had 4 touchdowns himself last season while on the Seahawks. While has been underwhelming most of his career, this is his chance to shine. He steps onto a team with a great quarterback and a system that uses the tight end very well. It should be a career year for Everett in L.A.

 

Zach Ertz: Arizona Cardinals

It seemed not that long ago that the talk was that Zach Ertz was washed. Dallas Goedert was taking over in Philly and he was done. Ertz was traded to the Arizona Cardinals last year and had a turnaround season. He struggled to find the endzone while in the desert but still managed to finish as a top 10 tight end. He resigned with the cards and now looks to see his targets increase after they let wide receivers Christian Kirk and AJ Green leave as well as pass-catching back Chase Edmonds. Its looks like another good season ahead for the 31-year-old as he becomes even more necessary in that Arizona offense.

 

Rob Gronkowski: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As of writing Rob Gronkowski hasn’t officially resigned with the Bucs. But that seems to be all but a formality given his best friend Tom Brady has un-retired and the Bucs went from rebuild to loading up for a super bowl run. He finished as a top 10 tight end last season and in both seasons with the Bucs he has put up at least 6 touchdowns. Expect more of the same from Gronk in 2022.

 

Austin Hooper: Tennessee Titans

Who remembers 2019? Austin Hooper certainly does as he had a great year in Atlanta, posting 75 receptions, 787 yards, and 6 touchdowns, and finishing just outside the top 5 tight ends for the year. He turned that into a contract with the Cleveland Browns who then muddied the waters by continually using him, David Njoku, and Harrison Bryant, and never giving one of them a large role. Hooper now has the perfect chance to shine. He signed with the Tennessee Titans this offseason, a team that has been lacking at tight end and much like the Browns have been filling that position with multiple players. The tight ends in Nashville combined for 8 touchdowns last season so if a majority of those come Hooper’s way he will be a very solid fantasy tight end.

 

Mo Alie-Cox: Indianapolis Colts

Mo Alie-Cox took a major gamble on his future this offseason, re-signing with the Colts when they were in QB flux. They had traded Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders and had no starting quarterback in place. Alie-Cox now returns to a team where he has familiarity and should see an increase in targets after Jack Doyle’s retirement. He becomes THE guy at tight end in Indy and potentially hit the jackpot when the Colts traded for Matt Ryan. Ryan has always been friendly to his tight ends, so this looks like a major win for Allie-Cox who is 6’5” and 267 lbs and loaded with untapped potential. He presents a great red zone weapon for Ryan who doesn’t have a ton of options outside of Michael Pittman in Indy.

 

Irv Smith: Minnesota Vikings

Coming into 2021 Irv Smith was a hot tight end sleeper. He was coming off a good 2020 season where he put up 5 touchdowns in 13 games but ended up missing all of 2021 with a knee injury. This led to Tyler Conklin becoming the tight end to roster in Minnesota. Conklin put up 61 receptions and 3 touchdowns in 2021 and finished just outside the top 15  tight ends in PPR leagues. Conklin signed with the Jets this off-season, which opens up plenty of opportunities for Smith to regain his role in the offense with a new coaching staff in place.

 

Losers

 

C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin: New York Jets

During free agency, you sign one of the top contracts for tight ends. You go to a team with a young up-and-coming quarterback that had horrible play from their tight ends in 2021 who are not on the roster anymore. That should have made both C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin winners. The only issue is that they both did that and are on the same team. That team also happens to be the New York jets who haven’t had a good tight end in years. These are two solid tight ends who will help the Jets on the field in real life, but who will hurt each other’s production in fantasy football and thus neither are likely to shine.

 

Donald Parham: Los Angeles Chargers

Most fantasy owners were falling head over heels for Donald Parham after his performance last mid-season. The second-year tight end was seeing more targets and Jared Cook was also getting lots of work. It was a given that Cook wouldn’t return to the Bolts in 2022 so it looked like Parham was set to take over. However, he had a scary neck injury that took him out of the end of the season and now the Chargers have brought in Gerald Everett in free agency. It’s a huge shot to the future value of Parham. He does still have the size at 6’8” to be a massive red zone threat, but will be losing work to Everett who has more experience.

 

Hayden Hurst: Cincinnati Bengals

Hayden Hurst was supposed to be the next best thing as a former first-round pick in the NFL draft, but that never really materialized. He had a top 10 year for Atlanta back in 2020 but hasn’t produced much since. He does win in the sense that he escapes the horrible offense of the Falcons and lands on the air show that is the Bengals’ offense. The issue is that the Bengals don’t really use the tight end that much. Combined last year the position group only saw about 80 targets and only had 5 touchdowns. Sure if all of those came to Hurst that would be great but some will still go to Drew Sample. If Hurst takes over the role that C.J Uzomah had he would be the top tight end on the team but only see about 65 targets. Those types of numbers would put him outside the top 15 at the tight end position and given that he’s not as big as Uzomah I expect a dip in production, not a bump. A great offense doesn’t always mean great production for everyone.

 

 

Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire | Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter @ IG)

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