Just hours into the start of 2021 NFL free agency, the New England Patriots signed former Tennesse Titans TE Jonnu Smith to a 4-year $50 million dollar deal, with $31.25 million being guaranteed money. The Jonnu Smith signing is one of the biggest free-agent signings the Pats have made in recent years, and it certainly comes at the surprise of no one. It’s a much-needed and expected acquisition to help fix a Patriots offense that ranked near the bottom of the league last season.
So can this Jonnu Smith signing help the Patriots climb back to their expected rank? Here’s why the acquisition of Smith will do just that.
Jonnu Smith Signing: What He Brings to a Depleted Patriots Offense
Production After the Catch
Smith has really distanced himself from some of the other younger tight ends in this league for a number of reasons, one of them being his ability to provide a ton of production after the catch.
Back in January, Bill Belichick was quoted saying that when it comes to after the catch ability, Smith is “probably the best in the league.” Now i wouldn’t go that far, as the likes of Travis Kelce and George Kittle may have a slight advantage, but it’s high and justified praise by one of the best coaches in the league.
In Smith’s breakout season back in 2019, he averaged nearly eight yards after the catch, one of the higher averages in the league that season.
With some major question marks still lurking at the quarterback spot, even after the signing of Cam Newton, it’s important for the Patriots to send out some dynamic playmakers who can really jumpstart an offense with their after-the-catch abilities.
Jonnu Smith gives you just that.
After running an astounding 4.62 40-yard-dash, it was evident that Smith was going to provide whichever team he ended up on with some unique abilities at a position normally suited for bigger guys.
His 40-yard time was better than 92% of his fellow tight end draftees and in a league that has become increasingly reliant on speed, it’s a fantastic trait to have.
For years, New England has relied heavily on the blocking ability of their tight ends. It was a fantastic strategy that worked well for many years, but a transition has occurred away from the old pocket passer style of Tom Brady. Now, no matter who starts at quarterback for the Patriots, the mobility will be exponentially better than Brady. Smith directs the Patriots away from that old style and opens the game up down the field more.
As the NFL values speed more and more, it’ll be key to have at every single position on the offensive side of the ball. The Jonnu Smith signing brings exactly that and should provide Newton, or whoever starts, with some great separation on nearly every route.
One of the biggest pluses for the Patriots following this Jonnu Smith signing has got to be Smith’s ability to play anywhere at any time. In his collegiate career and during his time with the Titans, Smith played in the slot, out wide, and even took some snaps at running back as well.
We’ve already mentioned his speed as a major positive and it not only helps him at his natural position but it has also helped him become somewhat of a wild card on the offensive side of the ball. The way Belichick and the Patriots run their offense fits perfectly into Smith’s dynamic and versatile abilities.
There are very few tight ends in this league that can check off as many boxes as Smith does. A dynamic tight end forces the opposing defense to completely change their gameplan. A linebacker, in many cases, is no longer suitable in man coverage. Seam routes are almost a guarantee at least a couple of times a game.
There are so many pluses to having a tight end like this, and the Jonnu Smith signing gives the Patriots a lot of versatility at a very weak position.
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