Tight end may be a position that needs to be bolstered this offseason as the Falcons only have one tight end under contract for 2022 — Kyle Pitts. Terry Fontenot declined to exercise Hayden Hurst’s fifth-year option, and Lee Smith is set to hit free agency this Spring. There is a chance the front office will bring Hurst back on a new deal, but given his disappointing year, I’d be shocked if that happened.
Smith, on the other hand, seems to be a non-option. I’m sure if Arthur Smith had it his way, then the veteran tight end would be the one given a new deal over Hurst. However, it appears he won’t have that option. Per Kyle Pitts Instagram, Lee Smith is apparently retiring from football.
Per Kyle Pitts Instagram, it appears that Lee Smith is retiring. pic.twitter.com/BG6nwpEUSE
— Miles Garrett (@MilesGarrettTV) January 10, 2022
Smith established himself as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, and for the Falcons, he was essentially a sixth offensive lineman when he was on the field. He’s in the same category as Mercedes Lewis for the Packers; traditional tight ends that can handle their own against all edge defenders. Arthur Smith and Matt LaFleur’s offenses depend heavily on this type of player to get the run game going.
It is a dying breed as the NFL moves forward with more tight ends like Kyle Pitts, who line up out wide just as much as they line up next to the tackle. It is likely why Smith gave himself the moniker “throwback dinosaur” because he is that dying breed. The Falcons traded a seventh-round pick for Smith last offseason, and it was an overwhelming success in my eyes. The Falcons will have to replace the production he gives in the run game, but for now, congratulations Lee Smith on a spectacularly modest career — a real pro’s pro.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire