Nobody loves tight ends more than Arthur Smith. The Falcons have placed emphasis on the position since the new regime took over in 2021. The club made Kyle Pitts the highest draft tight end in history and acquired another potential difference maker in Jonnu Smith via trade more recently.
For the Patriots, it was a cost-cutting move. New England only netted a seventh-round pick but got out from underneath the contract. The club had allocated nearly $34 million to the tight end position in 2023 prior to the trade.
For the Falcons, Jonnu Smith reunites with Arthur Smith, who was his coordinator in Tennessee. Those seasons with the Titans resulted in the lucrative contract from the Patriots. It’s been reported that the two sides will re-work Smith’s current deal to make it more team friendly, which should please Falcons fans.
Purely speculation — Atlanta should look to extend the Smith and lower his cap hit even more.
So, what does Jonnu Smith bring to the Falcons?
During his time with Arthur Smith in Tennessee, the former third-round pick had his best seasons, which he parlayed into a four-year, $50 million deal with the Patriots.
In 2019, Smith hauled in 35 passes for 439 yards and three scores — all career highs. And he followed 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.
So, if there’s anywhere that can maximize his skill set, it’s Atlanta. What exactly is that skill set, though?
Jonnu Smith was heralded in Tennessee for his run after the catch ability. Most of his highlights are 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.
PATRIOTS GOT JONNU SMITH AND HE'S REALLY GOOD AT FOOTBALL pic.twitter.com/LmBbPvgUvX
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 15, 2021
Despite being known for his prowess after the catch, that short highlight video displayed very capable red zone ability, where he’s high pointing balls and making difficult contested catches.
Moreover, in Tennesee and New England, Jonnu Smith was tasked with blocking a fair amount. He certainly isn’t a blocking specialist. but he can hold his own. Remember, Derrick Henry holds rushing titles from those seasons. He’ll be asked to do the same in Atlanta.
Kyle Pitts can line up all over the field, and so can Jonnu Smith, including the backfield. It will be interesting to see how the Falcons use their versatile pieces.
Here’s an example:
In 22 personnel, there are two tight ends and two running backs on the field — i.e., Jonnu Smith, Kyle Pitts, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson and Drake London. Most of the time, defenses will counter with heavier personnel.
However, in this case, they might be forced to stay in a subpackage because of the receiving capabilities of Pitts and Patterson, who can both line up on the boundary. It creates mismatches galore. If the defense goes heavy, throw it. If they stay in nickel, run the ball.
The possibilities are endless.
Photographer: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire
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