Free Agent Market Values: High Salary TEs

By Steven Van Tassell (@SteveVT33)

The start of the 2022 NFL season is getting closer. We are in the first stage of the off-season, the two-week period in which NFL teams can place franchise or transition tags on their own free agents. No tags have been placed yet as teams generally wait until closer to the end of the two-week period (March 8th) to make those decisions.

However, there have been several players who have restructured their contracts in the past few days by converting 2022 base salary and roster bonuses into signing bonuses. This helps their NFL teams free up cap space for the 2022 season. The two position players who have done so in the past few days are Packers RB Aaron Jones and Saints WR Michael Thomas. However, while those restructurings will help their NFL teams with the anticipated $208.2 million NFL salary cap, they won’t help Dynasty Owners with the anticipated $145.74 million Dynasty Owner salary cap (70% of the NFL cap). Salaries in Dynasty Owner are based on the average annual value of the entire contract, so their Dynasty Owner salaries won’t change.

The one signing of note came on Friday when the Carolina Panthers re-signed TE Ian Thomas to a 3-year deal worth $16.5 million ($5.5 million for Dynasty Owner salary purposes). Other than that, it’s been mostly fringe players signing reserve/futures contracts since the Super Bowl.

Any 2022 signed contracts will be listed under Yearly Salary Breakdown or posted in the Contract section on the player’s profile if it’s like Thomas’ and hasn’t taken effect yet. Dynasty Owners can start planning for the remaining free agent contracts using the anticipated free agent market values from Spotrac (https://www.spotrac.com/).

Now that the discussion of free agent QBs, RBs and WRs and their market values is finished, our attention turns to TEs. This article will review the five high salary TEs, those players who have market values of $8 million or more per season. That’s fewer high salary TEs than WRs and also a lower salary figure for the TEs than the high salary WRs who had market values of over $10 million per season. However, before we can get to the players, let’s review how players score Dynasty Owner fantasy points.

All stats cited are based on the Standard Dynasty Owner scoring system as outlined in the updated Dynasty Owner Constitution. Standard Dynasty Owner scoring gives you .1 points for every yard rushing or receiving, .1 point for every 2 yards passing, 1 point per reception, 6 points for a rushing, receiving or passing touchdown and 2 points for a successful 2-point conversion (rushing, receiving, or passing). Interceptions or fumbles lost cost you 3 points, while a fumble that is recovered by the player’s team is a loss of only 1 point. Bonus points are available for 100-199 yards rushing (2 points), 200 yards rushing or receiving (6 points), 300-399 yards passing (1 point) and 400 yards passing (4 points). There is also a 3 point bonus for clutch scoring, which is a score that results in a lead change in the final two minutes of the 4th quarter or overtime. Kickoff and punt return touchdowns are worth 6 points for the player and kickoff and punt returns are worth 1 point for every 40 yards.

For the purposes of this article, all statistics and 2021 position ranks were current as of the morning of February 28th. Spotrac has market values available for select players at https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/free-agents/.

TEs Who Are Going to Get Paid Over $10 Million Per Year

There are three free agent TEs with market values of $10 million or more per year. If they end up getting contracts with an annual value of over $10 million, it will increase the number of TEs in that salary range to 10. In 2021, only five TEs had average salaries in that range (George Kittle – $15 million, Travis Kelce – $14.3 million, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith – $12.5 million, and Austin Hooper – $10.5 million). They will be joined by Dallas Goedert and Mark Andrews who signed new contracts during the 2021 season with average annual salaries of $14.25 million and $14 million respectively.

The free agent TE with the highest market value out of the three is Dalton Schultz.

Position RankAge2021 SalaryMarket ValueSalary Change
TE325$728,090$12,680,722+ $11,952,632

Schultz’s market value is projected at 4 years and $50,722,888, or $12,680,722 per year for Dynasty Owner salary purposes. Dynasty Owners with Schultz on their roster currently should expect to have to pay nearly $12 million more in salary to keep him on their team. What should his Dynasty Owners do?

Current Recommendation: Keep him

Schultz was able to thrive in each of the past two seasons in Dallas under different circumstances. In 2020, he was the TE10 and had five games with 10.0 or more Dynasty Owner fantasy points in total from three different QBs (Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton and Ben DiNucci). The only Dallas QB who he didn’t team up with for over 10.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in a game was Garrett Gilbert. He had 8.8 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in the one game Gilbert started against Pittsburgh. In 2021 with Dak Prescott at the helm for 16 out of the Cowboys’ 17 regular season games, Schultz had 11 games with over 10.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points. Overall, he was the TE3 with 208.8 Dynasty Owner fantasy points (12.3 points per game). All of this production comes in a Dallas offense featuring several other high-profile offensive weapons.

If Schultz stays in Dallas, he should be fine. He’s proven that he can produce in this offense. If he leaves, the team that signs him should have plans to make him an even higher profile part of their offense. Paying $12.5 million for a TE is a lot, but good tight ends are hard to find. Especially 25-year old ones who have finished in the top 10 in TE scoring in each of the past two seasons.

Mike Gesicki is next and has a market value of just over $11 million per year.

Position RankAge2021 SalaryMarket ValueSalary Change
TE826$1,652,981$11,003,330+ $9,350,349

Gesicki’s market value is projected at 4 years and $44,013,320, or $11,003,330 per year for Dynasty Owner salary purposes. Dynasty Owners with Gesicki on their roster currently should expect to have to pay just over $9.35 million more in salary to keep him on their team. What should his Dynasty Owners do?

Current Recommendation: Trade him

This may seem contradictory after I just wrote that Dynasty Owners should keep Dalton Schultz because “…good tight ends are hard to find. Especially 25-year old ones who have finished in the top 10 in TE scoring in each of the past two seasons.” That definition fits Gesicki as well, except that he’s a year older (26). It can’t be just the extra year that makes me change my recommendation, especially since Gesicki’s salary is projected to be less than Schultz’s at $11 million per season. So, why the trade recommendation for Gesicki?

It comes down to steady production that is lacking from Gesicki and not likely to get better with Tua Tagovailoa as his QB in Miami. Gesicki had only five games in each of the 2020 and 2021 seasons with over 10.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points. That’s my baseline for being a Top 12 TE in Dynasty Owner on a weekly basis. He also had ten games in those two seasons with between 8.0 and 10.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points, making him a very low-end Starter or a high-end Bench TE option. If my Dynasty Owner team is spending $11 million in salary on one of the few TEs making that much, I want him in my Starting lineup every single week. I feel like Schultz is that type of player, but Gesicki is not.

Can new Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel turn Gesicki into the next George Kittle? Maybe, but I don’t think Gesicki is as good as either Kittle ($15 million) or Schultz. However, there’s a Dynasty Owner in your league who probably does and is willing to pay Gesicki’s contract. Find out who that is and trade him to that team.

The final TE with a market value of over $10 million per season is Robert Tonyan.

Position RankAge2021 SalaryMarket ValueSalary Change
TE5127$3,384,000$10,803,009+ $7,419,909

Tonyan’s market value is projected at 4 years and $43,212,036, or $10,803,009 per year for Dynasty Owner salary purposes. Dynasty Owners with Tonyan on their roster currently should expect to have to pay just under $7.42 million more in salary to keep him on their team. What should his Dynasty Owners do?

Current Recommendation: Trade him during the free drop period and if you can’t get a deal, then drop him for free

Tonyan was the TE51 in 2021, but he got injured in Week 8 and missed the rest of the season. However, he only had 50.4 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in eight games, an average of just 6.3 points per game. At that pace, he would have been the TE23 if he played all 17 games with 107.1 Dynasty Owner fantasy points and slotted in between David Njoku and Evan Engram.

In 2020, he was the TE5 in Dynasty Owner with 176.6 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in 16 games played (11.0 points per game). He was just 0.8 Dynasty Owner fantasy points away from being the TE3. He caught 11 TD passes in 2020, tied with Travis Kelce for the most by a TE. His standing was improved greatly by the TDs. If you remove five of those TDs, he’s the TE12 and not looking as great.

Trade Tonyan regardless of whether the Packers figure out how to pay him that salary and keep Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. Even if that happens, Rodgers is still going to throw to Adams all of the time and Tonyan will be at best their third option behind Adams and Aaron Jones/A.J. Dillon. Anywhere else, he’s likely to not be worth that salary (think Austin Hooper in Cleveland). Hype up the TE5 finish in 2020 when making your trade offers and see what you can get.

TEs Who Are Going to Get Around $8 Million per Year

Right now, there are two TEs slated to make around $8 million in salary for the 2022 Dynasty Owner season. The first is Kyle Pitts who is on his rookie contract as the #4 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft for $8,227,624 per season. The second is Logan Thomas who signed an extension with the Washington Commanders for three years and $24.065 million ($8,021,667 per season) during the season. Three other TEs made that much in 2021 (Zach Ertz at $8.5 million plus Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham at $8 million) and all three are free agents. However, only one out of the three is expected to return and play with a contract in that range for 2022. It’s Rob Gronkowski.

Position RankAge2021 SalaryMarket ValueSalary Change
TE732$8,000,000$8,387,909+ $387,909

Gronkowski’s market value is projected at 1 year and $8,387,909 for Dynasty Owner salary purposes. Dynasty Owners with Gronk on their roster currently should expect to have to find only $387,909 more to keep him on their team. Don’t be surprised if he signs again for the same $8 million figure as last year. What should his Dynasty Owners do?

Current Recommendation: Hold if you plan on being a contender. Trade if you’re rebuilding.

Last year, Gronk missed five games, but still scored 171.2 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in 12 games for an average of 14.3 points per game. He managed eight games with over 10.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points despite only scoring a TD in three games (he scored 2 TDs in all three of those games). He improved to be the TE7 in 2021 after finishing as the TE11 in 2020. Even at 32 years of age, he’s Gronk and one of the best TEs to ever play in the NFL.

However, with four Super Bowl rings, one retirement in the books and plenty of injuries, it seems pretty likely that this is Gronk’s final NFL season. If you think you have a Dynasty Owner team that can contend for a League Championship in 2022, he’s worth holding. If your team is rebuilding, he’s pretty worthless if he retires next year so you need to trade him. Either way, it’s going to be his first season without Tom Brady as his QB, so you’re hoping that he lands in a good playing spot with a quality QB to maximize his value.

C.J. Uzomah is the other TE with a market value in the $8 million range.

Position RankAge2021 SalaryMarket ValueSalary Change
TE1929$6,100,000$8,229,563+ $2,129,563

Uzomah’s market value is projected at 3 years and $24,688,689, or $8,229,563 per year for Dynasty Owner salary purposes. Dynasty Owners with Uzomah on their roster currently should expect to have to find $2.13 million more in salary cap to keep him on their team. What should they do?

Current Recommendation: Drop him for free after trying to trade him, but not having any success

At his current $6.1 million salary, Uzomah is only rostered in 52.7% of Dynasty Owner leagues. He finished the 2021 season as TE19 and has the lowest roster percentage of any Top 20 TE. A raise of over $2 million per season isn’t going to help his roster percentage or the ability for his Dynasty Owners to find a trade partner. Uzomah had career highs in receptions (49), receiving yards (493) and TDs (5) in 2021. Did he finally find his groove in his seventh NFL season or benefit from being on a team with a great young QB in Joe Burrow and multiple weapons drawing attention away from him?

Bet on the latter and Uzomah not being able to duplicate his breakdown season, either in Cincinnati or with another NFL team. Try and shop him now and even after he signs a new contract, but don’t expect to get much for him. Rejected trade offers will be the norm, so you’ll likely just have to drop him or add him as a throw-in to make salaries work in a larger deal.

Conclusion

Those are the five free agent TEs who are expected to sign contracts of more than $8 million per season in free agency. The free agent TE market is more robust than the QB or RB market, but not quite as plentiful as the WRs. There are five more TEs with market values of under $8 million to discuss next week. After that, it’s time to start writing about other topics as NFL free agency starts and the 2022 Dynasty Owner off-season heats up.

The weekly Dynasty Owner livestream with myself and Tim Peffer is back at its regular day and time – Wednesday at 4 PM (Eastern). Set the timer on YouTube so you don’t miss it live, or make sure to watch it afterwards. Either way, don’t forget to smash the Like button. You can also listen to it afterwards wherever you get your podcasts.

Please read all of the off-season articles from our Dynasty Owner team as well. On Mondays, I write about players, salaries and contracts to help new and returning Dynasty Owners navigate how to play our unique game. Jay Pounds is writing about everything on rebuilding your Dynasty Owner roster on Tuesday. Nate Christian is back for 2022 and will do prospect previews every Thursday. Finally, Friday is Free Agent Friday right now as Matt Morrison – The Jerk breaks down the free agents on every NFL team by division.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Steven Van Tassell is the Head of Content for Dynasty Owner Follow us on Twitter: @SteveVT33 and @Dynasty_Ow