Panthers potential 2021 free agent targets: TE Jonnu Smith

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Tim Weaver
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The Panthers should be in the market for an athletic, respectable receiver type of tight end this year to help upgrade their passing game. Hunter Henry of the Chargers should be their top target, but there are a few other names that are also worth considering.

Today, let’s take a look at Jonnu Smith of the Titans and why he could be a good fit for carolina.

Pros

Tennessee picked Smith in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft. He was relatively quiet his first few years in the league but 2020 was a breakout season. Smith posted career highs in catches (41), receiving yards (448) first downs (25) and touchdowns (eight). Patriots coach Bill Belichick has called him the best tight end in the league after the catch. Smith would be a definitive upgrade over Ian Thomas and Chris Manhertz as a receiver and according to Spotrac his market value is a perfectly reasonable $8 million per year. Plus, he is only 25 years old and has time to grow.

Cons

That $8 million a season projection seems a bit on the low end, especially given what we saw from Smith this season. There’s a decent chance that Smith will have a lot of suitors in free agency if the Titans don’t resign him before the new league year begins. Also, other tight ends like Jared Cook might be a better scheme fit but that’s nitpicking given the upside for Smith.

Conclusion

The Panthers have a strong core of pass-catching weapons with Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson all under contract for 2021. Adding another receiver in free agency might be a luxury that they can’t afford, but if they’re going to let Curtis Samuel walk they have to seriously consider bringing in another weapon. A young, capable tight end like Smith is their best option.

Related

Panthers RB Mike Davis predicts a 'crazy' 2021 free agency period