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Should Patriots Regret Signing Jonnu Smith?

  • The Draft Network
  • December 29, 2021
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Plenty has gone right for the New England Patriots in 2021. Bill Belichick has impressively turned around and transformed a roster that was in disarray following the departure of Tom Brady. The Patriots missed the playoffs a year ago and Belichick immediately went to work in the offseason. 

Several key additions have quickly developed the Patriots into strong playoff contenders in rather quick succession. The drafting of Mac Jones has given offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels a signal-caller worthy of executing his scheme. Jones has spearheaded a draft class that appears to feature a plethora of difference-makers, including defensive tackle Christian Barmore and running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who have helped New England form one of the more feared defensive lines and rushing attacks in the league. The signing of Matthew Judon currently appears to be one of the better moves any team made in the offseason. Judon is up to 12.5 sacks on the year and has been one of the most consistent quarterback hunters in 2021. The re-acquisition of left tackle Trent Brown in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders has drastically improved a once-struggling offensive line. The list goes on and on. 

Not every offseason addition has worked out, however. The Patriots signed tight end Jonnu Smith to a lucrative four-year, $50 million contract. Smith arrived in Foxboro with high expectations after a stellar four-year career with the Tennessee Titans. It's been a shocking disaster thus far, as Smith has failed to leave the desired impact on New England's offense while looking like a poor and awkward fit for McDaniels' scheme and their offense as a whole. Smith is unfortunately looking like one of the worst free-agent signings in the entire league (Kenny Golladay and Curtis Samuel are undeniably in contention for this title as well).

Smith has totaled just 27 receptions and 274 yards while scoring one touchdown throughout his first 14 games as a Patriot. It took Smith all of 10 games to surpass his current receptions total last season, and just *two* games to score more touchdowns. 

On that topic, Smith's lack of involvement and usage in the red zone has perhaps been the most dumbfounding reveal of his disappointing Patriots tenure. Smith's lone touchdown, a one-yard reception in a Week 4 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, pales in comparison to his success in the red area a year ago. Smith scored an astounding nine touchdowns as a Titan in 2020, where his dual-threat ability to block and run after the catch shined and was well utilized under at-the-time offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

Smith isn't simply being misused or ignored in the opponent's crucial territory. He simply isn't being used, period. Smith wasn't targeted in New England's Week 16 loss to the Buffalo Bills. It represented a new low for the $50 million man, whose usage has been trending in a less-than-desired direction all season long. Smith hasn't seen five or more targets since New England's Week 7 dominant victory over the New York Jets. It represented a change in fortunes for a tight end that was targeted at least five times in New England’s opening four contests but has seen that many targets just once since that opening four-game stretch

It hasn't worked out between Smith and Patriots thus far. Belichick and the Patriots got a lot of things right in the offseason, but it certainly wasn't perfect. Smith's lack of production unfortunately reflects that.

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