The first day of NFL free agency is in the books and a lot has happened. We saw big guard Joe Thuney sign with the Chiefs for the small sum of $80 million (~$47 million guaranteed). Rob Gronkowski is ready to try and win another championship with Tampa Bay after signing a 1-year deal. Then former Steelers’ linebacker Bud Dupree has taken his talents to Tennessee for a 5 year, $85 million deal. Will he be the same Bud without TJ Watt? That’s for someone else to cover.
I’m focusing on the guy who is truly a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde on the fantasy football gridiron – Jonnu Smith. Quite curious…
But, who is Jonnu Smith?
For those of you who don’t know, former Titans’ tight end Jonnu Smith has left Nashville and signed a 4 year deal worth $50 million with the Patriots. This deal will make Smith the 4th highest paid tight end in the National Football League behind George Kittle, Travis Kelce, and the aforementioned Gronk. Those 3 are for sure the elite tight ends in the game, but does Jonnu Smith deserve to be among the list? Let’s dive in.
Drafted in 2017 by the Titans out of Florida International University, Smith was an afterthought in Tennessee. Playing behind veteran Delanie Walker, it was hard to get many reps for Smith. In 2019 as Walker went down for the year in week 7, Smith got his chance. He reeled in 35 passes for 439 yards but only had 3 touchdowns on the season. Even Ricky Seals-Jones had more touchdowns than Smith, so I think he took that personally.
Smith gets his shot
In 2020 as Walker announced his retirement, my eyes lit up. I’d been rollin’ with Smith as my backup fantasy tight end since 2018 hoping for his shot to prove himself. He didn’t disappoint this past season. He truly became one of QB Ryan Tannehill’s favorite red zone targets as he hauled in 8 touchdowns with 41 catches. However, outside of the red zone, his numbers are FAR inferior to those tight ends considered to be the best in the game. Kelce had 3.5x more yards than Smith, Darren Waller more than doubled his receptions, and even TJ Hockenson had far more receiving yards than Smith.
Going to the Patiots could be what both parties needed for this to be considered a success. The Pats really haven’t found anyone to take over Gronk’s former role. The top tight end target in 2020 was Ryan Izzo with 13 catches for 199 yards, and no touchdowns (back up Devin Asiasi had 1 TD but his other stats are negligible). That’s not going to win you many ball games. The Patriots are desperate for production out of the position and Smith wants to show he’s worthy of being mentioned with the likes of Kelce & Gronk. This is a match made in football heaven so we’ll have to see how it ends up. I think the gamble for New England is worth it. If anything just to get a couple of touchdowns from their tight end.
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