Jonnu Smith is heading to a new city but reuniting with his former coach. The New England Patriots have agreed to trade the veteran tight end to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for a seventh-round pick, according to NFL Media.
Smith was one of the major acquisitions made by New England during their free agent spending spree back in 2021. That offseason, the team signed him to a four-year, $50 million deal along with inking fellow tight end Hunter Henry, seemingly trying to form a one-two combination at the position going forward. However, that never came to fruition as Smith was unable to find his footing in Foxborough.
In the past two seasons, Smith was unable to go over 300 yards receiving and had just one touchdown over his two-year stint with the franchise. In 14 games played last season, he caught 27 passes for 245 yards.
For Smith, this is a chance for the 27-year-old to have a reset after an underwhelming tenure in Foxborough and do so with a Falcons team that is led by head coach Arthur Smith. Smith was the tight ends coach for the Tennessee Titans when Smith came into the NFL as a third-round draft choice in 2017 and was his offensive coordinator in Nashville during the most productive seasons of his career.
In 2020, the season before both of these individuals departed the Titans franchise the following offseason, Smith enjoyed a career year, catching 41 passes for 448 yards and eight touchdowns. So, there is a history of Arthur Smith getting the best out of the player, who'll now be a complement to former first-rounder Kyle Pitts.
Meanwhile, the Falcons are expected to rework Smith's contract, according to ESPN. Currently, he is set to count $17.2 million on their salary cap for 2023. For New England, this move frees up $4.4 million in cap space.
This is a low-risk trade for the Falcons. They give up the 245th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to see if a change of scenery and a reunion with his former coach can get Smith back on track. He'll be 28 by the start of next season, so there's plenty of room for Smith to look more like he did during his days in Tennessee than he did in New England. During the two seasons when Arthur Smith was his offensive coordinator, Smith averaged 38 catches per year to go along with 443.5 receiving yards and 6.5 touchdowns. If he can come anywhere close to that in Atlanta, he'll be a strong No. 2 option behind Kyle Pitts. Of course, the Falcons will need to make his contract more palatable.
Sometimes you just have to cut bait. While a seventh-round draft pick for what was once your free agent prize is hardly the type of compensation worth writing home about, the move does clear $4.4 million off of New England's salary cap, which could help the Patriots in free agency. Smith was unable to fit into this Patriots offense and having him eat $17.2 million of your cap for 2023 just didn't make sense. So, New England does gets some credit for cutting its losses and gaining space, but this was one of the worst signings of Bill Belichick's tenure and it now comes to an end with a whimper.