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Patriots restructure tight end Jonnu Smith’s contract to open up more than $5 million in cap space

The Patriots did some restructuring of Jonnu Smith's contract to open up some space this year, while paying him more in 2023 and 2024.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The Patriots converted $7.965 million of tight end Jonnu Smith’s base salary into a bonus, a move that created some much needed space against the cap.

Smith’s salary cap number for the 2022 season decreased to $8.38 million, which gives the Patriots an additional $5.31 million in room. Smith’s cap hit this year is the sixth highest on the team, behind linebacker Matthew Judon, tight end Hunter Henry, wide receiver Nelson Agholor, right tackle Isaiah Wynn, and nose tackle Davon Godchaux.

As a result of the restructure, Smith’s cap numbers for 2023 and 2024, the final two years of his contract, each increased by $2.66 million. His cap hit is highest on the team in 2023 ($17.41 million) and 2024 ($18.41 million).

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The Patriots are hopeful this will be a bounceback year for Smith, who has yet to live up to the four-year, $50 million deal he inked in March 2021. At the time of the signing, Smith’s red zone production and ability to gain yards after the catch generated significant intrigue. But his numbers regressed last season for the first time since entering the NFL, as he finished with just 28 receptions on 45 targets for 294 yards and a touchdown.

Coaches sound optimistic Smith will turn things around.

Despite an uneven first year in New England, Smith still has the support of the coaching staff.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

“Jonnu’s had a really good offseason,” coach Bill Belichick said Sunday. “It started in the spring. He’s in really good condition. Fundamentals and techniques are good. He’s a hardworking kid. He’s out there every day. He’s a smart player. He’s off to a real good start. We’ll see how things go in the regular season, but he’s put himself in position to, I think, go out and play well.”

Still no coordinator clarity

With the season opener coming up, Belichick stayed mum on the team’s plans for an offensive play caller following the departure of Josh McDaniels.

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“We have a good staff,” Belichick said. “We have a lot of people on both sides of the ball. Offensively and defensively, everybody contributes. Ultimately, I have responsibility for everything that happens on the field. In the end, I’ll take responsibility for that. But we have a lot of great members of the staff. A lot of different ideas come from different areas, or a collaboration of ideas. We’ll see how it goes.”

Belichick, senior football advisor Matt Patricia, and offensive assistant Joe Judge have shared offensive play-calling duties this preseason, with Patricia often at the forefront. However, coaches and players have offered little clarity on the setup.

So, who draws up the play when the team has its first, say, third and long? According to Belichick, the entire staff will have input.

“Those suggestions, those ideas can come from everybody and anybody,” he said. “I’d say that’s the way it’s always been.”

Extracurriculars

The players stayed busy their final free weekend before the start of the season. Safety Devin McCourty watched his alma mater, Rutgers, edge Boston College, 22-21, at Alumni Stadium. Linebacker Anfernee Jennings also took in some college football, watching his alma mater, Alabama, shut out Utah State, 55-0, at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, left tackle Trent Brown, and safety Adrian Phillips caught Serena Williams’s grueling three-set loss in the third round at the US Open. And wide receiver Nelson Agholor went back and visited his high school, Berkeley Preparatory School, in Tampa.

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Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.Follow her @nicolecyang.