Where Does Jonnu Smith Rank Among Worst Patriots Signings?

He never lived up to the hype


Mar 13, 2023

Jonnu Smith was thought to be one of the most impactful signings by the Patriots during their expensive 2021 offseason, agreeing to terms before New England then doubled down on the position and added Hunter Henry.

It was expected that Smith’s skillset and burst with the ball in his hands would make him a key contributor in Josh McDaniels’ offense. The reported signing of Henry just hours later probably had Patriots fans salivating at what McDaniels would concoct with two-tight end sets. After all, the Patriots had just added each of the top two players available at the position with Smith (four years, $50 million) and Henry (three years, $37.5 million).

The expectation, however, was never met. It really never came close.

Smith caught just 55 passes on 83 targets for 539 yards with 10 rushing attempts for 45 yards. His 2021 campaign was the worst in a three-year span and 2022 was even worse. Smith scored one touchdown during his Patriots tenure, which ended Monday as Bill Belichick and company traded him to the Atlanta Falcons in a salary dump.

The Patriots received a mere seventh-round pick for Smith, a brutal return despite the fact they were able to get arguably their worst contract off the books. He earned $486,630.73 per catch, as shared by The Ringer’s Danny Heifetz.

ESPN’s Patriots reporter Mike Reiss included Smith among the worst free-agent signings of the Belichick era. Smith joined Antonio Brown ($9 million signing bonus for one game) and Jonathan Fanene (three years, $9.825 million for zero games) on Reiss’ short list.

Whether you want to blame Belichick, Smith, McDaniels or anyone else, well, that’s for you to debate. It’s fair to believe McDaniels didn’t feature Smith as much as he should have during the 2021 campaign before the longtime Patriots coordinator departed for the Las Vegas Raiders. And the Matt Patricia-led offense wasn’t good for anyone during the 2022 season with Smith falling victim like everyone else.

The Patriots’ decision to hire Bill O’Brien this offseason was thought to be a win for Smith given that O’Brien was calling the plays for New England when Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were dominating together at tight end. But Belichick and company clearly sought cap relief and didn’t want to wait on the potential of Smith bouncing back from two struggle-filled seasons.

Now his New England tenure, unfortunately for all involved, will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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