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New England Patriots

New England Patriots

  • Mike Gesicki is the newest New England Patriot. The team signed the 27-year-old to a reported one-year, $9 million contract on Friday morning.

    The Gesicki signing is a bit of a zag to the expected zig. After adding slot receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster earlier in the week, the consensus was the Patriots should look for a big outside receiver to round out their offensive skillset and draw coverage away from the middle of the field. Instead, they ended up with a player at a traditionally middle of the field position – or did they?

  • Because Gesicki spent the first five years of his career playing in the AFC East, Bill Belichick has spoken about him quite a bit in press conferences. It’s a rare opportunity where we actually have a pretty good idea of what Belichick thinks of a player the team signed in free agency as the signing happened. When it comes to Gesiski, Belichick has openly pondered on his position multiple times.

    Prior to a 2019 game against the Bills, Belichick was asked about the wave of versatile tight ends entering the NFL, and brought up Gesicki unprompted.

    “The player that’s part receiver and part tight end. Those are the kind of guys that do you treat them as a receiver or do you treat them as a tight end? Guys like [Mike] Gesicki, players like that. They’re really not tight ends, they’re really not receivers. They’re good players,” Belichick noted. “Those are the types of players that really create the conversation because they can split out, detach from the formation, be in tight end locations but they’re very good receiving tight ends at that position relative to what your normally see there. Those are, I’d say, the hard game plan questions to answer with those type of hybrid players.”

  • After a game against the Dolphins early in the 2020 season, Belichick seemed to suggest he actually views Gesicki as a wide receiver, rather than a tight end. Answering a question about the various defensive back groupings the team used that day, he noted “we know that Miami was capable of basically putting four receivers out on the field on a lot of their snaps, which they did with Gesicki and then the other three receivers.”

    The next day, answering a question about the team’s coverage plan on Gesicki specifically, Belichick echoed that sentiment. “Gesicki, he’s a big receiver,” Belichick said at the time “I mean, he’s not really a conventional tight end, but he’s a tough matchup in the passing game.”

    Prior to their second matchup in 2020, Belichick’s thoughts on Gesicki didn’t change. “He’s got good receiving skills. He’s really, I would say, more of a big receiver than a true tight end, but he functions a little bit in that spot. He’s got good quickness, obviously good length, good hands and instinctive receiver that knows how to get open and can make good catches in tight coverage with his length and his hands.”

    Now, that’s not a knock on Gesicki as a player. Just a different way of classifying what he does. Asked about a run of tough tight ends the Patriots had faced later that season, Belichick noted, “Guys that have either elite tight end skills or elite receiving skills, guys like Gesicki or [Greg] Olsen and guys like that that maybe aren’t used that much in the running game, but in terms of matching up and just trying to cover them in the passing game, they’re very tough.”

  • Now, there’s some real validity to what Belichick is saying here. It highlights some of the best and worst parts of Gesicki’s game.

    We’ll start with the good. Gesicki’s usage and route tree doesn’t look at all like a typical tight end. His role was similar to that of a traditional tight end his rookie year, when he was less effective. But since then he’s played 56.8 percent of his snaps out of the slot, lined up 21.4 percent of the time out wide, and just 20.6 percent of the time inline. Those numbers are much more in-line with a slot receiver (especially a big slot receiver) than a normal tight end.

    At the same time, he doesn’t offer much as a blocker. He’s posted a PFF run blocking grade above 50 (out of 100) just once, with a 52.8 score in 2020. Under first-year head coach Mike McDaniel last year his playing time noticeably dipped, mainly because the team had him on the field much less often on run calls.

  • As Gesicki’s role changed in 2022, so did Belichick’s view of him – at least based on what he said.

    “I’d call him a big tight end,” Belichick said before the teams’ September matchup. “Gesicki is a problem,” he added.

    “He’s a hard guy to cover. Long. He’s a good, crafty route runner. He’s slick, but he can get down the field. Very good hands, makes some acrobatic catches,” Belichick also said of Gesicki, this time this past December. “Has enough quickness to separate. That’s another hard guy to cover on third down, well on any down. But when you talk about those possession downs, he’s effective.”

    While the Patriots will use Gesicki is some more traditional tight end ways, his role should go beyond that. With Hunter Henry still on the roster, the team has the flexibility to work with some of those positional grouping tricks Belichick spoke about in 2020 (my pitch is to call it something like ‘11.5’ or ‘Cloudy 12’ personnel, but we can work on that). He should get some wide receiver-type responsibilities as well, especially as the Patriots still seemingly have a need for another boundary receiver and/or field stretcher to take focus away from routes being run into the box.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at

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