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Should Bengals pursue TE Jonnu Smith after being released by Falcons?

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By: PatrickJudis

Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Bengals are looking to rebuild their tight end room. Could Jonnu Smith fit the bill?

The tight end position has been a carousel over Zac Taylor’s tender as the head coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin also said they want to change that going forward.

That lends to the idea they would like to draft a guy who can be around for a while. That doesn’t rule out a guy like tight end Jonnu Smith. He admittedly fits more of the same philosophy as they have looked at high-pedigree guys who need a chance to prove themselves. That worked when they signed Hayden Hurst, but Irv Smith Jr. was a miss.

Jonnu Smith started his career with the Titans, where he started 53 games over four years. He never had a truly standout season. His most notable was 2020, when he caught 41 passes for 488 yards. The eye-catching thing is the eight touchdowns. To be fair, this was an offense that was run-focused behind running back Derrick Henry; it still had the 20th most receiving yards among tight ends that season.

The reason you probably feel like you remember Smith’s name from somewhere is because the New England Patriots gave him a huge four-year $50 million contract with $31 million guaranteed. He was brought in the post-Tom Brady era, and you could tell quarterback Mac Jones didn’t really go out of his way to utilize Smith as he just eclipsed 50 catches and 500 yards with a single touchdown through his two seasons in New England before they sent him to the Atlanta Falcons for just a seventh-round pick.

Smith was reunited with Arthur Smith, who was one of his coaches with the Titans, and you could tell Smith felt more in his element as he had a career-high 50 catches and 582 yards. If you ask fantasy football players who owned fellow Atlanta tight end Kyle Pitts, you may hear it was to Smith’s detriment that he used Smith so much rather than the promising young player the team spent a top-5 pick on. Smith eventually was fired, so it isn’t surprising that Smith ended up as a cap casualty.

The thing we can also factor in here is that Smith’s best quarterback was Ryan Tannehill in 2020. Since then, he has had Jones and the Desmond Ridder (sorry, Bearcat fans) and Tyler Heinicke while also being TE2.

There is obvious talent there, and at this point, it seems like the position will have a handful of guys who have also bounced around the league. While Smith has never had a great season, he could still be out of the Bengals’ price range for the position, considering he is coming off a career year. He isn’t going to cash in on a huge contract, but the Bengals have been willing to pick the bottom-of-the-barrel guys.

The team isn’t going to find a guy they’ll be comfortable giving a multi-year deal with significant money behind them in this free agency class. However, they will need a guy who can potentially bridge the gap for a possible rookie to develop or adjust to the NFL since it is historically a slower position to adjust. Smith fits that bill if the Bengals are willing to pay a bit more than they have the past couple of seasons.

Should the Bengals pursue Smith? Let us know!

Originally posted on Cincy Jungle – All Posts