The Patriots should look to poach TE Jonnu Smith from the Titans.
A two-game winning streak has seen the New England Patriots re-enter the congested AFC playoff picture, though they’re still two games behind the final wild card spot even with the expanded field.
Their slip-up in the middle of the season has given them no margin for error the rest of the way, meaning that a loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night could derail what’s left of their playoff hopes, especially if some of the teams ahead of them in the standings nab wins.
With that in mind, it’d be totally understandable for fans to start looking ahead to the offseason, where the Patriots are being projected to undergo some semblance of a roster overhaul. It goes without saying that their biggest needs (at least on offense) are at the wide receiver and tight end positions.
Well, in his latest mailbag column for NESN, Patriots reporter Doug Kyed listed impending Titans free agent Jonnu Smith as an “intriguing option,” and you know what? We couldn’t agree more. If de facto general manager Bill Belichick knew what was good for him, he would absolutely look to sign him.
What makes Smith such a realistic target for the Patriots is that Belichick is actually quite fond him. Here’s what the 68-year-old had to say about the fourth-year pro leading up to the teams’ matchup in the first round of the playoffs last season.
"“He’s just a really good tight end,” Belichick said, per Kyed’s piece. “He can do a lot of things: blocks well, runs well, is a good receiver. I mean, hell, they played him at tailback. He looked pretty good back there. So, he’s a very athletic player, hard to tackle, catches the ball well. He’s great after the catch — probably the best in the league. I mean, I can’t imagine anybody better than him after the catch. No, he looks like a tight end to me. And a good one.”"
It’s not very often that we see Belichick gush over a player from another team to this extreme, and that has to indicate Smith should be on the Patriots’ radar in some capacity.
The former third-round pick doesn’t pad the stat sheet every week, but that simply comes down to the fact that Tennessee is a run-first offense and they have an abundance of receiving talent in the passing game. In many ways, Smith is the fourth (sometimes fifth) priority of their offense.
With that being said, however, he has all the tools to become elite, and the Patriots’ lack of offensive firepower could help him realize his full potential. At 6-foot-3 and 248 pounds, the 26-year-old stud is a matchup nightmare in the red zone.
For the season (11 games), Smith has registered 30 receptions for 338 yards and seven touchdowns, the latter of which ranks fourth among all tight ends and sixth among qualified pass catchers.
What more needs to be said? With salary cap space no longer holding them back, the Patriots would be out of their minds not to offer a contract to Smith, who’s arguably just entering his prime, once the offseason rolls around.