Patriots Insider Calls on Prized FA Signing to ‘Step up Now’

Getty Jonnu Smith

The New England Patriots set an NFL record for the amount of free-agent money the team spent this offseason. To be specific, Bill Belichick and Co. signed a group of free agents to contracts worth $163 million.

Whenever a team goes on a shopping spree for players on this level, there will be high expectations the following year. Well, here we are, and the Patriots’ 2-4 record is exactly the same as it was after six games in 2020.

What gives? It seems clear New England isn’t getting enough from its veterans, and more specifically, from the guys the organization invested in during the offseason.

Phil A. Perry Calls Out Jonnu Smith

NBC Sports’ Phil A. Perry honed in on five Patriots who need to step up and three of them are a part of the team’s massive free-agent signing class. One is tight end Jonnu Smith.

Here’s what Perry said about Smith:

Fifteen tight ends have more targets than Jonnu Smith this season. Nineteen have more catches. Twenty-one have more touchdowns. Twenty-six have more yards. Only three make more on an average annual basis. The Patriots made use of their tight ends against the Cowboys in a way they hadn’t all season. But Smith ran only 10 routes, one week after running six in Houston. He has been in the game as a run-blocker on a whopping 55 of 79 snaps (70 percent) over the course of the last two games. If the Patriots offensive line was performing better, Smith might be too. Maybe the team wouldn’t need him to be used quite so often as a run blocker. Maybe he wouldn’t be needed to chip pass rushers every so often. But the Patriots are 24th in the NFL in points this season. They need more production from one of their highest-paid players to slowly work their way up that list and compete with more explosive opponents.

Smith was an intriguing player for the Patriots because of his athleticism, size and versatility. Smith has the ability to catch passes in flat, up the seam and to even be a solid blocker in the run game. He also has the ability to run the football like a back if called upon. Unfortunately, we’ve not seen the sort of explosiveness the Patriots hoped to see when they drafted him.

Through Week 6, Smith had 2 rushes for 11 yards and 16 receptions for 124 yards and a TD. That should not be the stat line of a player who just signed a four-year, $50 million deal with $31.25 million guaranteed.

As Perry mentioned, the Patriots have to have more if they hope make it back to the postseason.

Jonnu Smith Hasn’t Compared Well to Hunter Henry

The Patriots’ Hunter Henry isn’t having a Pro-Bowl season, at least not as of yet, but his production has been superior to Smith.

Henry has six more receptions with 22 and 117 more receiving yards with 3 TDs. He has a TD reception in each of the last three weeks. If Henry can continue to produce, he’ll help the Patriots immensely, but he will also continue to set the bar for Smith.


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