During the 2021 offseason, the New England Patriots snagged both of the top two available tight end free agents in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Henry has 24 catches for 264 yards and four touchdowns in the first seven games, while Smith has 18 catches for 176 yards and one touchdown.
Both tight ends are 26 years old, but one’s enjoying more success than the other.
Smith was signed one day before Henry and the original thought was that Bill Belichick was piecing together an offense around former quarterback Cam Newton, but he fooled us all. Mac Jones is the rookie leader of the offense who’s been able to form chemistry with Henry right out of the gate.
For the fourth straight game, Henry caught a touchdown pass on Sunday to finish with two catches for a total of 23 yards.
The Patriots signed the two tight ends to increase the amount of versatility that they boast in the middle of the field. After losing quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, perhaps New England has its new Brady-Gronk connection. Henry signed a three-year, $37.5 million contract, and hopefully he’ll be able to call Foxborough his home even beyond that.
Do the Patriots even need Smith, after all? The main justification is Henry’s injury troubles; the tight end has yet to play in every game of any season since he entered the league in 2016. Henry didn’t play in the preseason due to an injury, either, but that hasn’t seemed to affect his performance.
Truth be told, with both men active, Smith has become more of an afterthought instead of the focal point of NE’s new two-tight-end set.
As long as the New England Patriots have Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith isn’t needed
Smith scored eight touchdowns last year with the Tennessee Titans, and while there’s still plenty of time to add more to his total this season, Henry is the better fit in New England’s offense. It’s hard to force something that isn’t there, so that’s why Jones has been relying more on his relationship with Henry. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
Belichick calculates every move that he makes and he’s extremely strategic, so he knew exactly what he was doing by going after Henry in free agency. Jones has his tight end link and Henry is getting to assist in the rookie’s development. It’s scary to think about what a full offseason between the two could lead to, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen after this year comes to a close.
Things can change quickly in the NFL world, but the chances of Smith emerging as Jones’ favorite tight end are slim. Smith signed a four-year, $50 million deal during the offseason, so he’ll be around for a while. For now, we’re going to keep riding this Jones-Henry wave. Why ruin the fun?