The Buffalo Bills could be adjusting their offseason plans for the tight end position after a rumored free agent target was quickly snatched up by an AFC East rival.
Former Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with the New England Patriots, NFL.com reported on Monday. The signing gives the Patriots a much-needed offensive weapon to help quarterback Cam Newton and could also throw a wrench into Buffalo’s offseason plans to upgrade one of last season’s most underperforming skill position groups.
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Pats Snag a Top Free Agent
Before he inked a deal with the Patriots, Smith was identified by many as a top target for the Bills. PFF’s Seth Galina listed him as a perfect fit for the Bills who could be a second or third threat for Josh Allen.
“The Bills did not get a lot of production from their tight ends in the passing game last season, so bringing in Smith would complete what would be a marvelous receiving corps,” he noted. “The rising fifth-year tight end is a capable blocker, but his usefulness truly comes when the ball is in his hands. Among tight ends with at least 25 targets over the past three seasons, Smith is fourth in yards after the catch per reception at 7.1.”
Smith is also coming off a season in which he notched a career-best 448 yards on 41 receptions with eight touchdowns.
That production will now be headed to a top rival of the Bills, helping New England to notch one of the early wins in free agency. Smith had been listed by NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal as the No. 16 player available in free agency and the best available tight end.
Buffalo’s Tight End Plans Could Change
The tight end position is seen as an area of potential upgrade for the Bills after the trio of Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith and Dawson Knox combined for just 442 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane has already made it clear that the team intended to improve the position group. After the AFC Championship game loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, when tight end Travis Kelce gashed the Bills defense to the tune of 13 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns, Beane said it was clear what the Bills were lacking.
“At the end of the day, we’d love to have a guy like what we just faced in Kansas City — they don’t come very often. But that’s what we want,” he said, via ESPN. “We’ve got some guys here we want to continue to develop and see what happens. Obviously, if there’s ways to add competition, whether that’s in free agency or the draft, we would do that, as well.”
With Smith now off the market, it is not clear what the Bills might do next. USA Today’s Bills Wire suggested that Buffalo could be one of the many teams rumored to be inquiring with the Philadelphia Eagles about a trade for tight end Zach Ertz, while others have suggested sticking with Dawson Knox to further develop him into an offensive weapon.