Many analysts thought the Bills would simply cut Smith sometime in the coming weeks in order to free up cap space. With this move, the franchise clears his $1.9 million in base salary of the ledger and gains some future draft equity.
Smith will now join 11th-year veteran Luke Stocker in backing up Falcons starter Hayden Hurst.
ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported the the deal on Tuesday night.
A trade: Bills are trading TE Lee Smith to the Atlanta Falcons for a 2022 late-round pick, per league source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2021
While a third-string TE trade for a future late-round pick may seem pretty inconsequential, this move could have some major implications.
Earlier this evening, the Philadelphia Eagles granted long-time franchise tight end Zach Ertz permission to explore trade options with other teams. According to multiple insider reports, Buffalo quickly became a frontrunner to land the newly-available TE.
Clearing both cap space and room on the tight end depth chart, an Ertz-Bills trade seems even more likely now.
Through 10 games in 2020, Smith reeled in just four receptions for 35 yards and two touchdowns. While Ertz didn’t fair much better this past season (career lows in every receiving category), the fully-recovered, three-time Pro Bowler should be primed for a bounce-back year in 2021.
Ranked No. 3 in overall NFL receiving this past season (4,786 yards), the Bills could only improve with the veteran presence of Zach Ertz on their tight end depth chart.