Patriots: 3 star tight ends NE can sign in free agency

Chargers TE Hunter Henry (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Chargers TE Hunter Henry (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Titans TE Jonnu Smith (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images) /

2. Jonnu Smith

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has long been an admirer of Jonnu Smith.

Jonnu Smith might not fall under the “star” category for some Patriots fans, but he is undoubtedly teetering on the precipice after showing improvements from a statistical perspective in each of his first four seasons in the league.

During this past regular season (15 games), Smith registered 41 receptions for 448 yards and eight touchdowns, the latter of which ranked fifth among qualified tight ends and impressively finished second only to AJ Brown on the Titans, a team filled to the brim with weapons.

What makes him such a realistic target for the Patriots, other than his red zone prowess, is the fact that head coach Bill Belichick has consistently spoken highly of him throughout his career. It’s an extreme rarity that Belichick gushes over a player from another team on multiple occasions, so we wouldn’t be surprised if the front office closely monitors Smith’s market this offseason.

By definition, the FIU product hasn’t been consistent as far as padding the stat sheet on a weekly basis, but that simply boils down to the fact that he’s often an afterthought of Tennessee’s loaded offense. On many occasions, he finds himself fourth in the pecking order in terms of touches, behind the likes of Derrick Henry, AJ Brown and Corey Davis.

That could all change if the Patriots were to sign him in free agency and make him one of the focal points of their aerial attack. At 6-foot-3 and 248 pounds, Smith is a matchup nightmare for both cornerbacks and linebackers, and we have no reservations about him flourishing in a featured role.