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L-R: Dalton Schultz; Hunter Henry (Getty Images)

There’s a solid crop of free agent tight ends about to hit the open market.

Headlined by the Houston Texans’ Dalton Schultz and the New England Patriots’ Hunter Henry, among other notable names, this group of free-agent tight ends is among the better groups in recent years. While there’s no true star like Travis Kelce or George Kittle heading to the market, multiple starting-caliber players are set to be there for the taking.

MORE: Ranking the top-10 free-agent wide receivers of 2024

Some clubs may be compelled to retain some of these guys, but they’d also have a good chance to cash in at the highest bidder once they become unrestricted free agents. Here are the top-10 guys on track to hit the open market, and what they’d bring to their teams…

1. Dalton Schultz

Dalton Shultz headlines a solid crop of free agent tight ends in the 2024 NFL off-season. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Dalton Shultz headlines a solid crop of free agent tight ends in the 2024 NFL off-season. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Making the most of a one-year deal in Houston, Dalton Schultz now finds himself at the top of the free-agent tight end market. As at best the third option for Offensive Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud, Schultz caught 59 passes for 635 yards and five touchdowns. His catches and yards lead all free agents at the position.

If Schultz is paid like one of the top tight ends in the league, he might be overpaid. But he’s earned the right with a well-timed contract year performance and presence at the high end of the market. His next AAV should top Jonnu Smith’s $12.5 million, which would vault him into the top-10 highest-paid tight ends.

  • 2. Hunter Henry

    PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 07: Tight end Hunter Henry (85) of the New England Patriots celebrates after a touchdown reception against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium on December 07, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

    PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – DECEMBER 07: Tight end Hunter Henry (85) of the New England Patriots celebrates after a touchdown reception against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium on December 07, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

    It would behoove the New England Patriots to re-sign Henry, since their tight end depth chart is going to literally be empty once free agency begins. But for now, Henry is on track to hit free agency after three solid seasons in a Pats uniform. Henry led all free-agents-to-be at his position with six touchdown catches, three of which came in his final two games.

    There should be a market for Henry, a big, sure-handed target and viable red zone threat.

  • 3. Noah Fant

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 23: Noah Fant #87 of the Seattle Seahawks runs with the ball during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Lumen Field on November 23, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – NOVEMBER 23: Noah Fant #87 of the Seattle Seahawks runs with the ball during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Lumen Field on November 23, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    So far for Fant, the production hasn’t matched the hype. Fant hasn’t forgotten that he’s a superior athlete, but his numbers have only declined. He compiled a career-low 32 catches, 414 yards, and zero touchdowns in his fifth NFL season, his second with the Seahawks.

    That said, Fant should be considered a buy-low candidate. The former first-round pick still has athleticism and untapped potential. A whole new scene with experience under his belt could do him a lot of good.

  • 4. Gerald Everett

    KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - OCTOBER 22: Gerald Everett #7 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts to a touchdown pass during the second quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

    KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – OCTOBER 22: Gerald Everett #7 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts to a touchdown pass during the second quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

    Everett put together the two best seasons of his career with the Chargers. He averaged 60 catches, 530 yards, and four touchdowns per 17 games. He may not have the prototypical tight end frame, but Everett can get his hands on the ball and knows how to make plays in space very well for a tight end.

    A durable and dependable target and a willing blocker despite his relative lack of size at the position (6-foot-3, 250 pounds), Everett could be in line for a nice payday and a starting role on his next team. He should get a good deal in this market.

  • 5. Austin Hooper

    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 22: Austin Hooper #81 of the Las Vegas Raiders runs with the ball after a reception against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on October 22, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – OCTOBER 22: Austin Hooper #81 of the Las Vegas Raiders runs with the ball after a reception against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on October 22, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Hooper was relegated to No. 2 duties in the passing game in 2023, behind dynamic rookie Michael Mayer. But he was remarkably efficient, catching 80.6 percent of his targets, and averaging 5.6 yards after the catch.

    Hooper may be five years removed from his last 70-plus-catch season. But he showed in Las Vegas that, in the right role, he can still be a dependable receiving tight end.

  • 6. Adam Trautman

    KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - OCTOBER 12: Adam Trautman #82 of the Denver Broncos stiff arms Justin Reid #20 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the first quarter at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on October 12, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

    KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – OCTOBER 12: Adam Trautman #82 of the Denver Broncos stiff arms Justin Reid #20 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the first quarter at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on October 12, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

    Trautman has yet to live up to his potential as a combo tight end, having averaged just 23 catches per 17 games in four seasons between the Saints and Broncos. But this could also be a case of a tough situation, with both teams dealing with shaky quarterback situations and struggling at times offensively.

    Trautman has received solid blocking grades from Pro Football Focus, so he largely has that part down. Dropped into a better situation, he may be able to start producing more as a pass-catcher, too.

  • 7. Irv Smith Jr.

    CINCINNATI, OHIO - NOVEMBER 05: Irv Smith Jr. #81 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown reception against Jordan Poyer #21 of the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at Paycor Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

    CINCINNATI, OHIO – NOVEMBER 05: Irv Smith Jr. #81 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown reception against Jordan Poyer #21 of the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at Paycor Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

    Another post-hype prospect, Smith has dealt with crowded pass-catching depth charts in both Minnesota and Cincinnati. He was originally a second-round pick to the Vikings and caught a promising 36-of-47 targets (76.6 percent) as a rookie, then averaged 12.2 yards per catch with five touchdowns in year 2.

    He’s dropped off since then, but there should still be untapped upside here. Smith is still just 25 years old and may simply need to be in a better spot in terms of target shares.

  • 8. Colby Parkinson

    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 10: Colby Parkinson #84 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after a touchdown during the third quarter in the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on December 10, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 10: Colby Parkinson #84 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after a touchdown during the third quarter in the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on December 10, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    Parkinson started to produce in the passing game after the Seahawks turned to Geno Smith at quarterback. He turned in two straight years of playing all 17 games, and catching exactly 25-of-34 targets (73.5 percent) with two touchdowns.

    That’s nothing to sneeze at, considering he was in an offense that already had D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Noah Fant, to go with a strong running game. Parkinson remains huge (6-foot-7, 251 pounds) and should be at least a fine complementary tight end for his next team.

  • 9. Drew Sample

    CINCINNATI, OHIO - NOVEMBER 05: Drew Sample #89 of the Cincinnati Bengals scores a touchdown reception past Dane Jackson #30 of the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter at Paycor Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

    CINCINNATI, OHIO – NOVEMBER 05: Drew Sample #89 of the Cincinnati Bengals scores a touchdown reception past Dane Jackson #30 of the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter at Paycor Stadium on November 05, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

    One of four tight ends to see double-digit targets for the Bengals in 2023, Sample, like Irv Smith Jr., was another player victimized by a crowded depth chart. The 2019 second-round pick made the best of his limited targets, catching 22-of-27 (81.5 percent) and mixing in two touchdowns.

    Sample showed enough for the Bengals to deserve more looks in 2024, whether it’s from Zac Taylor in Cincy or elsewhere. He could have a chance to deliver strong ROI on a contract that shouldn’t command close to the top of the market.

  • 10. Marcedes Lewis

    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 24: Marcedes Lewis #84 of the Chicago Bears scores a touchdown during the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field on December 24, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – DECEMBER 24: Marcedes Lewis #84 of the Chicago Bears scores a touchdown during the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field on December 24, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

    The ageless wonder. Lewis will be 40 years old when the 2024 regular season begins, and it would be his 19th campaign in the NFL. But Lewis proved last season with the Bears that he can still block with the best of them at his position, and he even caught a touchdown over just five targets.

    Lewis may not be the kind of tight end that would make a big impact, but he’s a steady veteran presence that would be a good depth option no matter where he ends up.

  • Get complete New England Patriots coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Check out all of Matt’s content.

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