At the start of the NFL free agency period, it appeared that free agent tight end L.J. Smith had two potential candidates to acquire his services: the Falcons and Lions.
In early March, Smith visited the Lions, but left Detroit without a contract. He then traveled to Atlanta and this past weekend, ESPN reported that Smith had chosen the Falcons and that a deal would be worked out soon.
But now the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that the Falcons have ended their talks with the free agent and won’t pursue Smith going forward.
Smith’s options were down to Detroit and Atlanta. It seemed like the Falcons would easily be the winner. But Smith dragged his feet and the Falcons had a change of heart. In the end, they are a running team and Smith doesn’t block. That’s what football teams call “a bad scheme fit.”
Ironically, on the same day the Falcons decided to end contract negotiations with Smith, the Lions signed tight end Will Heller, formally of the Seahawks.
Chances are, Smith was asking for too much and the Falcons balked. There’s no sense overspending on a soon-to-be 29-year old tight end who doesn’t block and who comes with major injury concerns. Atlanta would love to give quarterback Matt Ryan a nice receiving target at tight end, but the draft is deep at that position this year so expect the Falcons to target one at some point next month. (Many will buy into the notion that the Falcons will go with Brandon Pettigrew in the first round if he’s available, but don’t forget that they have more pressing needs on the defensive side of the ball.)
So where will Smith wind up? The Lions could still be an option, but they seemed to have moved on after Smith snubbed them for Atlanta. As of right now, there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for the free agent, even though he’s currently the best tight end on the market.
Update: Apparently the Ravens wanted L.J…