Two years after losing Rob Gronkowski, the New England Patriots finally have a new No. 1 tight end.
The Patriots and Jonnu Smith agreed to terms Monday on a four-year, $50 million contract that includes $31.25 million guaranteed, Smith’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Smith spent the last four seasons with the Tennessee Titans, who drafted him in the third round out of Florida International in 2017. He has yet to top 500 receiving yards in a season but caught eight touchdown passes in 2020 while also setting career highs in catches (41) and yards (448).
The 25-year-old (26 in August) was considered one of the top tight ends available in free agency. He’ll fill a major need for the Patriots, who ranked last in the NFL in receptions by tight ends in 2019 and 2020.
Listed at 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, Smith is dangerous with the ball in his hands, ranking fifth among tight ends with at least 40 targets in yards after catch per reception in 2020, per Pro Football Focus. He also ranked second in that category in 2019.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick raved about Smith’s ability before New England and Tennessee squared off in the 2019 playoffs.
?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, who cannot officially sign with New England until the NFL league year opens Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, will join tight ends Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse, Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene on New England’s depth chart. The Patriots traded up to select Asiasi and Keene in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Both should take steps forward after quiet rookie seasons.
Asiasi and Keene totaled five catches on 12 targets for 55 yards and one touchdown in 2020, and both spent time on injured reserve.