TE Jonnu Smith has been a very disappointing signing for the Patriots, to say the least. After a breakout 2020 season with the Titans, New England inked him to a 4-year, $50 million deal, banking on his high upside. Since joining the Patriots, he has not had over 300 yards or more than 1 touchdown in a season, and the Pats may want to cut bait before the 2023 season.
Andrew Callahan of Pats Interference broke down the logistics of a hypothetical Jonnu Smith trade, and why the Pats should be eager to move on.
“Jonnu Smith is not only one of the worst contracts on the team, in the AFC East, or in the AFC, he is one of the worst contracts in the entire league,” said Callahan.
Smith’s cap hit next season is $17.2 million, and if the Patriots traded him after June 1 (due to the NFL’s accounting rules), they’d free up around $10 million. Even in an ideal scenario, there aren’t many teams who would want Smith, but if the Patriots throw in enough draft compensation, a rebuilding team may take him as a salary dump.
“Chicago, Atlanta, Houston: tons of space, all rebuilding, would welcome the draft picks, and have the money to use up on a contract like Jonnu Smith,” he said. “You could attach something like a 4th and two 6th-rounders, or maybe two 4ths.”
The Patriots have a wealth of late-round picks to trade away, and depending on the package, the cumulative value of those selections could equal a day 2 pick. However, finding a suitor would still be difficult not just because of Smith’s production, but the timeline of trading him after June 1.
“Atlanta, Chicago, and Houston won’t have as much space after this deal is done,” he said. “They’re not ready to contend, so I don’t think they’ll spend, but $10 million is a lot to absorb for a team at that point when you’ve already spent on free agency, you’ve probably signed most of your draft class, and you want to save money for in-season expenditures.”
There are a lot of factors working against this mock-trade, but similar transactions have been made in recent history, and if the Patriots can pull it off, they’ll have some more financial freedom going into free agency.
“Maybe I’m just dreaming, but you got to get creative when you’re 8-9,” said Callahan.