Patriots Restructure Contract For Tight End Poised To Break Out In 2022

September 4, 2022

Coming off a somewhat disappointing 2021 season, Jonnu Smith ends a productive training camp by restructuring his contract in a way that saves the Patriots some cap money. Fans will be looking to see a productive 2022 from him.

The Patriots’ huge spending spree in 2021 netted them some great players, some of whom showed up big time in 2021, others who are poised to redeem themselves in 2022. However, it created a tough cap situation for the team, and while the Patriots will have more room freed up, they could use more to make a big acquisition in the 2023 offseason. Smith’s restructuring puts them on the right path.

What Are The Terms And What Does It Mean?

Simply put, Smith is converting $7.965 million of his base salary to a signing bonus, which saves the Patriots over five million cap dollars. With his four-year 50-million-dollar contract, he is one of the highest paid Patriots, and while this doesn’t change the aggregate that he gets, it changes the burden on a tight salary cap.

Before this, the cap situation was somewhat precarious. With a number of ex-Patriots (most notably, the retired Patrick Chung and the traded Shaq Mason) eating up dead cap space, and a number of players on hefty contracts from last year’s free agency push, the Patriots don’t have too much room to work with. And this is all with Mac Jones on a rookie contract, meaning they have a big expenditure coming in another three to four years.

A large number of contracts ending will give the Patriots 58 million dollars of cap space in 2023, up from just over four million right now, but in all likelihood, the Patriots will want to extend a number of those players, and to have the bandwidth to make a big play in the 2023 offseason, more restructures like this one would be big.

What Does Jonnu Mean To The Patriots

Patriots fans likely pine for what they once had around 2012 – a fearsome tight end duo. The skills of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were impressive enough on their own, but together, they had a complementary skill set that added so much extra scope and depth to the offensive play calling framework. And based on their body of work, Jonnu and Hunter Henry have the capability of being the best tight end duo the Patriots have had since then.

Jonnu had a disappointing 2021, with his stat line of 28 catches, 294 yards and a touchdown not being really representative of what he can do. He came to New England off an excellent 41-catch, 448-yard, eight-touchdown season at Tennessee and was an integral part of their offense. What screams out when one thinks of Jonnu Smith is athleticism and versatility. He’s a speedy player for his position who runs good routes. He is capable of executing shorter-yardage situations but also to get upfield.

The Patriots had some success last season with him when they varied their looks, involving him in the run game as well, where his ability to change direction and blast through with speed is brought out to the greatest extent possible. The Patriots have witnessed a fairly good training camp from Jonnu Smith, where the connection has been solid between him and Mac, and he has made impressive plays. If he can show those improvements in games the Patriots, between the orthodox but reliable Hunter Henry and the unpredictable Smith, the Patriots can run a number of interesting plays in two-tight end set.

Can the playcalling make use of his unconventionality? That’s a big X-factor at play here. Smith did quite well both at Tennessee and at times as a Patriot in terms of mixing things up and using his running ability to deceive the defense with end arounds. These kinds of progressions serve as a great counterpart to Henry’s conventional but effective downfield routes and catches. While Jonnu will need to improve, part of the onus there will lie on Patricia, Judge, and TE coach Nick Caley.

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