The Falcons were among the most active teams in the league this offseason. They made Chris Lindstrom the highest-paid guard in the league and sunk significant capital into Jessie Bates III, David Onyemata, and Kaden Elliss to give the defense fresh blood at all three levels. They also swung a notable trade to acquire Jonnu Smith, who Bill Belichick described as a great kid whom he enjoyed working with:
#Patriots coach Bill Belichick on #Falcons TE Jonnu Smith: “Jonnu is a great kid. I enjoyed working with him.” pic.twitter.com/0yLzcmZaTD
— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) March 27, 2023
It’s the most Bill Belichick response ever, but it’s important to note because the Falcons emphasize character in prospective talent, regardless of the avenue of acquisition.
Jonnu Smith reunites with Arthur Smith, who was his coordinator in Tennessee. Those seasons with the Titans resulted in a lucrative contract from the Patriots. During his time with his new head coach in Tennessee, the former third-round pick had his best seasons, which he parlayed into a four-year, $50 million deal with New England.
In 2019, Jonnu Smith hauled in 35 passes for 439 yards and three scores — all career highs, following it up with an even better campaign in 2020, where he recorded 41 receptions for 448 yards and eight touchdowns, adding another on the ground. Once again, those were all career-best marks.
However, the success tapered off in New England. With the Patriots, Smith never recorded over 300 yards or more than one touchdown in a season. The 27-year-old caught 27 passes for 245 yards and zero touchdowns last year; in 2021, he caught 28 passes for 294 yards and one touchdown — all down from his numbers with Arthur Smith.
Jonnu Smith was heralded in Tennessee for his run after the catch ability. His most impressive highlights were short to intermediate routes over the middle being extended into a chunk play. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands, and Arthur Smith found various ways to get it to him in 2019 and 2020, including out of the backfield.
Bill Belichick clearly couldn’t figure out a way to utilize Jonnu Smith’s skill set, but Arthur Smith has shown an ability to maximize it.
Photographer: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire
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