Why the Atlanta Falcons released TE Jonnu Smith

No Atlanta Falcons player is hurt more by the new offensive scheme than tight end Jonnu Smith.

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers
Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

There wasn't much that ex-Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith liked more than deploying two or three tight ends on the football field, which is why he traded for Jonnu Smith one year ago.

However, the Falcons will have a different scheme under new offensive coordinator Zac Robinson who won't use multiple tight end sets nearly as much, and that cost Jonnu Smith his spot on the roster.

Atlanta Falcons new coaching staff cost Jonnu Smith a roster spot

We can all agree that the Atlanta Falcons got more out of Jonnu Smith than his $3.5 million, seventh-round cost would indicate. He provided a great receiving option behind Kyle Pitts and excelled after the catch.

With that being said, his time in Atlanta was short lived thanks to the firing of Arthur Smith.

In comes Raheem Morris who has brought in Rams QB coach Zac Robinson to be the Falcons' newest offensive coordinator—which was not good news for tight end Jonnu Smith.

Under head coach Sean McVay, the Rams were known for their 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR). No team trotted out 11 personnel more than the Rams while the Falcons were dead last.

While the McVay system is adaptable, this means that the Falcons aren't likely to use two tight ends much. This is essentially a complete flip in offensive scheme from last season.

Kyle Pitts is the team's top tight end, we know that. While Smith is a nice weapon to have at your disposal, his value significantly dropped while his price went in the opposite direction.

Smith's base salary was going to be $6.5 million and he would have had a cap hit of $9 million. After being released, the Falcons will save $6.5 million and carry $2.5 million in dead cap.

Let's look at the usage of the Rams' tight ends last season to see why Smith was expendable. The Rams had 1,205 snaps on offense and they used four tight ends in total.

  • Tyler Higbee: 903 snaps
  • Davis Allen: 211
  • Brycen Hopkins: 96
  • Hunter Long: 55

Of those tight ends, Higbee and Hopkins were on the field together the most, which only amounted to 29 snaps.

Compare their snaps with the 2023 Falcons and you can see the differing philosophy

  • Kyle Pitts: 726 snaps
  • Jonnu Smith: 653
  • MyCole Pruitt: 401
  • Tucker FIsk: 72
  • Parker Hesse: 48

While Pitts' snap count wasn't quite as high as Higbee's, he was still coming back from his significant injury in 2022.

Anyway, the Falcons had 1,900 snaps from their tight ends compared to the Rams' 1,265. Furthermore, the Falcons' top two TEs played 1,379 vs. the Rams' 1,114. Sure, we can argue that Pitts and Smith are both better than Higbee, therefore, McVay played his better players, but, with the level of disparity we see, it mostly has to do with the scheme.

At the very least, Jonnu Smith was going to see a very diminished role.

There is also the fact that Kyle Pitts will be available for more snaps after another year of recovery.


To sum this all up, Zac Robinson's scheme is similar to Sean McVay's—difficult to imagine it won't be—meaning Jonnu Smith was expendable. This has nothing to do with his ability but rather dime vs. sense.

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