NFL trade grades: Patriots admit defeat on former prized free agent

Patriots tight end Jono Smith was traded to the Atlanta Falcons, joining his third team in the past four years.

Finally, Bill Belichick conceded defeat. The New England Patriots head coach doesn’t openly admit it, but he does by trading tight end Jono Smith to the Atlanta Falcons after Smith’s average performance over the past two years.

Smith began his professional career at the Tennessee Titans and joined the Pats in 2021. During his time in New England, Smith amassed just 539 yards and one touchdown, often not sharing a rotational role with Pats’ Hunter Henry.

The 27-year-old tight end is now starting for Atlanta.

Trade degrees john smith

The NFL’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the Falcons will acquire Smith less than an hour into the free agency period.

The Pats traded Smith to the Falcons in the seventh round, and Atlanta will restructure Smith’s contract as part of the deal.

Let’s take a look at each team’s performance.

New England Patriots Class: B

The goal here was clear: free space. Jono Smith held the second-highest salary cap achieved on a Patriots roster by 2023. In each Over the Cap, the Pats removed $4.4 million from their books and ate $12.8 million in dead money by trading Smith.

After two mediocre campaigns, Smith never seemed to have a solid future in New England’s offensive scheme and was never more than a corpse in the tight end room. With Hunter Henry outselling Smith in nearly all offensive categories and with Smith hitting the max, there was no reason for the Pats to stick with Smith.

New England did the financially responsible thing to offload Smith and in return got a seventh driver. Pats did a good job of finding a willing suitor, but other than that, it’s just good business.

Atlanta Falcons: B+

Perhaps no tight end has had a bigger sophomore drop than the Falcons’ Kyle Bates, who scored just 356 yards after a thousand-yard rookie season that drowned out the hopes and dreams of fantasy teams everywhere in 2022.

To add crucial depth behind the Bates, the Falcons went out and got a cheap veteran in Jono Smith, and Atlanta will be able to restructure Smith’s contract into a more team-friendly deal. It’s a win-win, especially since Smith reunited with Falcons head coach Arthur Smith.

The two spent time together for the Tennessee Titans from 2017 to 2020. Arthur Smith was the offensive coordinator for the Titans at the time, and he watched Jono Smith develop over the first four years of his NFL career.

The success of Jono Smith and Kyle Pitt will depend heavily on the Falcons’ quarterback solution this season; However, Atlanta at least has a good Plan B in place if Bates struggles or is injured.

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