It isn’t even Wednesday, and the New England Patriots have already started making big moves.
On Monday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the team had traded tight end Jonnu Smith to the Atlanta Falcons for a seventh-round draft pick. It was an addition by subtraction sort of move with the Patriots moving on from a prominent player for what was basically a salary dump agreement.
Smith was expected to be the second-richest contract in the 2023 season with a $17.2 million salary cap hit. The only player with a bigger hit would have been the Patriots’ best defensive player, outside linebacker Matthew Judon.
Finding a willing trade partner ahead of free agency could be key for a Patriots team that clearly needs help at offensive tackle, cornerback, wide receiver and safety.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith spent time working as a tight ends coach and offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans when Smith still played for the team. So this is a situation where there was familiarity between the coach and player that led to a move coming to fruition.
As for the Patriots, they are now in a better place to address the aforementioned positions of need, along with possibly adding an elite playmaker to keep the roster afloat in an AFC East division that looks like a juggernaut on the rise.
The team still has Hunter Henry as its top tight end, and they could potentially add another playmaker in a draft full of talent at the position. Smith is a very good player, but this was one of those situations where the fit didn’t work.
He regressed in the Patriots’ offense to the point where he wasn’t even a factor in the red zone. In eight games in 2022, he didn’t score a single touchdown for the Patriots.
So the team moved off his exorbitant contract and cleared up cap space in the same year as one of the most talent-rich drafts at the tight end position. It might be a surprise that the Patriots found a trade partner, but the move itself makes all of the sense in the world.