The Patriots have moved on from one of their big-ticket tight end acquisitions of 2021. Jonnu Smith is being traded to the Falcons for a seventh-round pick, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).
Smith made himself one of the top free agents of the 2021 class at the position after the four-year start to his career in Tennessee. As part of their unusually aggressive approach on the open market that offseason, New England inked him to a four-year, $50MM contract. They also splurged on fellow tight end Hunter Henry, something the team may have come to regret.
The former had an underwhelming tenure with New England, scoring just one touchdown in 30 games. He registered 539 yards on 55 catches, totals which were far lower than expected given his success in Tennessee. Now, this move will reunite him with Falcons head coach Arthur Smith (who was the Titans’ offensive coordinator during his time there). It will also save the Patriots roughly $4.4MM in cap space.
Smith’s deal was restructured in September, which upped his 2023 cap hit to $17.2MM. Per multiple reports, the Falcons will look to re-work his contract once again upon arrival to make it more team-friendly. Smith, 27, is currently on the books through 2024. He will look to rediscover his Titans form while working with a familiar coach in Atlanta, while also giving the Falcons a strong blocking tight end to complement the pass-catching skills of Kyle Pitts.
For New England, this move marks a disappointing end to Smith’s addition two years ago. They will now focus on retaining Henry, who has racked up 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns in his two Patriots campaigns. The former Charger has one year remaining on his deal, which includes a cap hit of $15.5MM. That figure could hinder the team’s efforts to add more productive receivers (regardless of if they are able to keep Jakobi Meyers in the fold), though the cap savings from this deal will give them some added flexibility. A replacement for Smith can likely be found in the draft, which is said to include a number of high-end options at the TE spot this year.