We tried to tell you the New England Patriots would be big spenders in free agency, and they already made a splash Monday when they came to terms on a four-year, $50 million contract with tight end Jonnu Smith, his agent told ESPN.
Smith was one of the best and most complete tight ends on the open market. The 25-year-old athletic tight end has 114 catches for 1,302 yards with 16 touchdowns in four NFL seasons. Smith, who’s 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, is coming off of his best NFL season when he caught 41 passes for 448 yards with eight touchdowns with the Tennessee Titans in 2020.
Smith is a versatile player who also is one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL. He has three career carries for 57 yards and a touchdown, as well.
Smith joins 2020 third-round picks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene as well as veterans Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse on the Patriots’ tight end depth chart. With a contract that pays him $12.5 million per season, Smith is clearly projected to be the Patriots’ No. 1 option at that position. He’s probably the best pass-catcher on New England’s roster.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick raved about Smith last January and said the speedy tight end is not just a big receiver.
“He?s just a really good tight end,” Belichick said. “He can do a lot of things: blocks well, runs well, is a good receiver. I mean, hell, they played him at tailback. He looked pretty good back there. So, he?s a very athletic player, hard to tackle, catches the ball well. He?s great after the catch — probably the best in the league. I mean, I can?t imagine anybody better than him after the catch. No, he looks like a tight end to me. And a good one.”
Smith ranked seventh among tight ends in yards after catch per reception in 2020 and second in that category in 2019. He has a rare ability to make big plays with the ball in his hands at the tight end position.
Smith was selected 100th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft out of Florida International. He ran a 4.62-second 40-yard dash with a 1.56-second 10-yard split, 4.18-second short shuttle, 38-inch vertical leap and 10-feet, 6-inch broad jump at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. In four college seasons, he hauled in 178 passes for 2,001 yards with 18 touchdowns.
The Patriots entered the offseason with over $60 million in cap space. They’ve since agreed to terms with Smith and nose tackle Davon Godchaux, traded for offensive tackle Trent Brown and re-signed quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Justin Bethel. They freed up more cap space by trading offensive tackle Marcus Cannon to the Houston Texans.
The Patriots still have plenty more money to spend after adding Smith and Godchaux, but they certainly made a strong impression early in the two-day free-agency negotiating period.