BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots didn’t waste any time in going after tight end Jonnu Smith in free agency. That has everything to do with Bill Belichick.
While the Patriots’ Twitter account joked that Nike the dog was pulling all the strings at the start of the legal tampering period …
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) March 15, 2021
… it was likely the real Belichick who prioritized the signing of Smith as soon as it become a possibility.
The genesis for the assumption comes from words spoken by Belichick himself. Prior to the Patriots-Titans playoff meeting in January of 2020, Belichick was asked if he considered Smith to be more of a “big receiver” than a traditional tight end. Belichick strongly disagreed with the assessment.
“No, I wouldn’t put him in that category. He’s just a really good tight end,” Belichick replied. “He can do a lot of things: blocks well, runs well, is a good receiver. I mean, hell, they played him at tailback. He looked pretty good back there. So, he’s a very athletic player, hard to tackle, catches the ball well. He’s great after the catch – probably the best in the league. I mean, I can’t imagine anybody better than him after the catch. No, he looks like a tight end to me. And a good one.”
While Belichick is always quick to speak glowingly of upcoming opponents, referring to Smith as “the best in the league” with the ball in his hands was another level.
It was no surprise, then, that when the Patriots got the opportunity to formally offer Smith a contract, it took all of 59 minutes for news of the agreement to break.