The Miami Dolphins will be a much different team at the tight end position in 2023. No matter how we dive into it, the pass threat will not be the same as it was with Mike Gesicki.
To that end, Gesicki leaving shouldn't hurt the Dolphins offense at all. In fact, you could and some do, argue that Miami is stronger without him.
Gesicki was electric as a pass catcher but his blocking as we all know wasn't very good. Miami's offense couldn't utilize him in a way that was beneficial to the team. Defenses accounted for him being part of the passing game and when he wasn't, no one was worried about him holding up at the line.
That can not be said about this year's cast of tight ends. The Dolphins have good but not great players at the position and some need to prove they can make a difference but the talent is there to be perfect in this offense that doesn't need elite pass-catchers but good ones.
Naturally, Durham Smythe is the 2023 lock and will start. He can block well enough and when his number is called to catch the ball, he can do that well enough in Mike McDaniel's system. It is why he got his contract extended and then reworked.
This year, six TEs will head to camp with four positions at most on the line. If Smythe has one on lock, three positions are available.
The benefit the Dolphins have is that one of those TEs is a long shot to make the roster. Julian Hill has to hope that the practice squad is an option. The rookie faces too much competition at the position to make the 53 but as we have seen in the past, no position is safe from injury so familiarity could be important.
Leaving three spots available and four players competing who will win a 53 man roster spot?
Elijah Higgins could be an interesting watch this year. The rookie draft pick is a converted WR and the Dolphins believe they may have got a steal with taking him on day three of the draft.
The 6th round pick will need a good camp but his status for the 53 will depend on how much the Dolphins like him and the upside they see in him.
We can say that Eric Saubert has the inside track to be TE number 2 and it isn't a stretch. He is a solid blocker and has good hands, better than Smythe but he doesn't have the volume of work. Saubert is nearly a lock to make the 53 and could be one of the reasons Miami didn't feel the need to overextend their draft plans and reach for a TE after the top ones came off the board.
Miami's remaining TEs are Tyler Kroft, an experienced TE who should provide quality veteran depth at the position and Tanner Conner who is entering his 2nd NFL season.
Kroft shouldn't have a problem taking up the 3rd spot given his experience so that leaves Conner and Higgins doing battle for the final roster spot and the loser could be heading to the practice squad.
The TE competition should be fun but this also shouldn't be a position that needs a microscope like say the WR 5th and 6th spot. The Dolphins offense should be better with this group as all of them are equally good enough to block and catch passes which will help disguise some of the offensive formations.
I see Miami keeping four TEs this year initially and those four should be Kroft, Smythe, Saubert, and either Conner or Higgins in what will be the best battle in training camp at the tight end position.