The New England Patriots needed to add more weapons on offense.
They wasted no time doing so and started that process by signing a now-former Tennessee Titan. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Patriots have agreed with tight end Jonnu Smith on a four-year, $50 million contract.
The Titans last weekend opted not to use the franchise tag on Smith, who was seen as a prime candidate to receive that designation. Had they done so they would have gotten Smith for one year at $9.601 million. The deal with New England averages $12.5 million over four years.
Free agents cannot officially sign with new teams until Wednesday.
Smith’s receiving numbers have increased in each of his four NFL seasons even as he was an important blocker for two-time NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry. In 2020, he played in every game and set career highs in receptions (41), receiving yards (448) and touchdowns (eight). Smith set a franchise record for touchdown receptions by a tight end and, with the addition of one rushing touchdown, tied for third among all NFL tight ends in total touchdowns.
The 2017 third-round pick out of Florida International started his career as the Titans’ No. 2 tight end behind Delanie Walker. In his rookie season, he appeared in 16 games with 13 starts, recording 18 receptions for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He suffered a torn MCL in the Titans’ AFC Divisional round game against the New England Patriots.
He climbed to No. 1 on the depth chart early in 2018, his second in the league, after Walker sustained an ankle injury in that season’s opener. In 13 games (12 starts), Smith caught 20 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns before a season-ending MCL injury in Week 14.
In 2019, Smith started 14 of the Titans’ 16 games. The 6-foot-6, 248-pounder hauled in 35 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns. He scored his first and only postseason touchdown in the Titans’ Divisional round upset of the No. 1-seeded Baltimore Ravens.
Tennessee currently has three tight ends under contract for 2021, Tommy Hudson, Parker Hesse and Jared Pinkey. None of the three undrafted players have appeared in a regular season game. Veteran Anthony Firkser is set to be a restricted free agent while Smith, MyCole Pruitt and Geoff Swaim are all set to be unrestricted free agents.