football-player football-score football-helmet football-ball Accuracy Arm-Strength Balance Ball-Security Ball-Skills Big-Play-Ability Block-Deconstruction Competitive-Toughness Core-Functional-Strength Decision-Making Discipline Durability Effort-Motor Elusivness Explosiveness Football-IQ Footwork Functional-Athleticism Hand-Counters Hand-Power Hand-Technique Hands Lateral-Mobility Leadership Length Mechanics Mobility Pass-Coverage-Ability Pass-Protection Pass-Sets Passing-Down-Skills Pocket-Manipulation Poise Power-at-POA Progressions RAC-Ability Range Release-Package Release Route-Running Run-Defending Separation Special-Teams-Ability-1 Versatility Vision Zone-Coverage-Skills Anchor-Ability Contact-Balance Man-Coverage-Skills Tackling Lifted Logic Web Design in Kansas City clock location phone email play chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up facebook tiktok checkbox checkbox-checked radio radio-selected instagram google plus pinterest twitter youtube send linkedin search arrow-circle bell left-arrow right-arrow tdn-mark filled-play-circle yellow-arrow-circle dark-arrow-circle star cloudy snowy rainy sunny plus minus triangle-down link close drag minus-circle plus-circle pencil premium trash lock simple-trash simple-pencil eye cart
Jonnu Smith Kyle Pitts

Why Jonnu Smith Trade Helps Kyle Pitts

  • Jack McKessy
  • March 15, 2023
  • Share

It’s not a move that has gotten a lot of attention, but the Atlanta Falcons’ trade for tight end tight end Jonnu Smith was sneakily one of the best moves that’s happened so far this offseason.

The first two years of Smith’s four-year, $50 million contract with the Patriots did not go exactly the way New England may have hoped when they made the deal. In 2019 and 2020, his last two years in Tennessee, Smith was a very solid third target for quarterback Ryan Tannehill behind receivers A.J. Brown and Corey Davis. But when he joined the Patriots, Smith did not enjoy the same level of targets and production. He started just 19 of the 30 games he played in and was not nearly as involved in the offense as he was with the Titans nor as much as fellow Patriots tight end Hunter Henry. The writing was on the wall for Smith’s time in New England, and the Patriots moved on from him when they got the chance.

For Atlanta to be the team to swoop in and take advantage of Smith’s trade availability just makes so much sense. In grabbing the tight end, the Falcons reunited him with head coach Arthur Smith, the guy that was the tight ends coach then the offensive coordinator for the Titans when Smith started his career. Arthur Smith has his fingerprints all over Jonnu Smith’s development and success earlier in his career so clearly will know how to maximize his skill set in Atlanta’s offense.

Another big reason that this is such a big win for the Falcons is what it could mean for their young developing tight end, Kyle Pitts

Pitts is an athletic freak. That’s a big reason the Falcons drafted him with the fourth overall pick directly ahead of wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle. He can play and win as an outside receiver or in the slot, is a good route-runner, has great hands, and is one of the most explosive players at the position.

But after a stellar (if slept on) rookie season that featured more than 1,000 receiving yards on 68 catches, Pitts had a significantly less impactful second year: 356 yards on 28 catches. Even if he hadn’t missed seven games with injury, extrapolating that production into the games he missed still doesn’t nearly reach the heights of his rookie season output. Why?

Well, you could point to the change at quarterback from Matt Ryan to Marcus Mariota in 2022. But you could also point to how the Falcons used him without another potential starter—like Hayden Hurst, who was in the building in 2021—around to fill more traditional tight end roles. In 2022, Pitts played in-line more often than he had in his rookie season and showed some development as a blocker. In many ways, this made Pitts a more “full” tight end, but whether it was the quarterback change or alignment splits, he was significantly less productive in 2022.

By adding Smith to the offense, the Falcons get another tight end that can complement and free up Pitts in 12-personnel. Smith is a great blocker and can play in-line consistently for Atlanta, potentially freeing up more opportunities for Pitts to play on the outside or in the slot. Pitts would still line up against linebackers and safeties from the inside but might be able to put his skill set to better use standing up rather than with his hand in the dirt.

Overall, the Falcons only gave up a seventh-round pick to bring in Jonnu Smith. This is a trade that’s about as low-risk, high-reward as it gets. If their head coach can help him return to his Tennessee form and also use him to open up more pass-catching opportunities for Pitts, we will look back on this rather under-the-radar trade as one of the best moves of any team this offseason.

Filed In

Written By

Jack McKessy