JuJu Smith-Schuster used this season to show form similar to his early-career version, leading the leading wide receivers in yardage by a wide margin. Poised for a third run as a free agent soon, the sixth-year veteran has put himself in a position to cash in.
The former Steelers second-round pick has signed one-year deals in each of the last two seasons, but his 933 receiving yards are his most since the 2018 Pro Bowl season. That ’18 campaign with Antonio Brown still looks like an outlier (1,426 yards), though Smith-Schuster has been an integral part of the Chiefs since the Tyreek Hill operation. Already collecting millions in incentive money, the USC alum could earn another $1M by playing 50% of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LVII offensive snaps. With Smith-Schuster no longer on the injury report for Kansas City, that’s likely to happen.
Although Smith-Schuster should have a bigger market than his 2021 and ’22 free agency efforts, he said (via NFL.com’s Mike Giardy, Twitter), “Yes, I want to come back. Of course friend look where i am I want to come back to this.
The Chiefs signed Smith-Schuster to a one year deal worth $3.76M. This came after the Steelers re-signed him for one year and $8M in 2021. This year’s free agent wide receiver contingent will benefit from Smith-Schuster, who is still just 26 years old. He joins the likes of Jacoby Meyers, DJ Chark, Allen. Lazard, Parris Campbell and teammate Mecole Hardman as the top young wideouts available. Odell Beckham Jr. will re-emerge, but the 30-year-old’s injury past will complicate his market – just as it did during last regular season.
Smith-Schuster is one of the top pass catchers available in March unless he re-signs with the Chiefs before the market opens. Spotrac has pegged its value at north of $14M per year; This can complicate the way back to Missouri. The Chiefs will likely look to retain their nominal No. 1 wide receiver, with Hardman a free agent-to-be and Kadarius Toney (signed through 2024) not shaking the injury-prone label, prompting the Giants to trade him. got help. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, however, remains in control of the Chiefs beyond this season.
When the Chiefs signed Smith-Schuster, they still had Hill on their roster. But the eventual AFC champions may be in the early stages of moving on from their unique deep threat. Smith-Schuster’s low-cost settlement came hours after the Raiders changed the receiver market with their Davante Adams trade.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster Denny Medley – USA TODAY Sports
“It was insane. I was expecting Tyreek and Travis [Kelce] Were going to be our boys,” Smith-Schuster said via Ryan Dunlevy of the New York Post. “Come to find out the changes and we’re still here [in the Super Bowl], I don’t think it was ever about me filling shoes. It was, now I have more opportunities to play for this team.
The Chiefs may have advanced to the Super Bowl without Hill, but the new Dolphin passed for a career-high 1,710 yards this season. Kansas City’s deep-passing numbers also fell, with Next Gen Stats charting Patrick Mahomes making deep throws on just 8.2% of his attempts—a career-low figure. This marked a huge drop from his first MVP season (15.2%); That number was also 10% in 2021.
“We had hoped to bring him back; Initially it was our goal to bring him back. But the receiver market really shifted the offense,” said Chiefs owner Clark Hunt of Hill (via Volin), whom the team traded on March 23. It was something no one wanted to see, but it was the right decision. And then [GM Brett Veach] Did a great job with the draft capital they got bringing in new players, mostly on the defensive side.
The Chiefs began Hill expansion talks in early March; His previous deal ran till 2022. But after Adams’ $28M-per-year deal was revealed, Hill confirmed that his price point has changed. Hill said he shouldn’t have taken the $30M per year to stay in Kansas City, but the Chiefs left anyway. Veach addressed the franchise’s roster-building shift in comparison to Mahomes’ rookie-contract years. It will be interesting to see how far Kansas City will go to retain Smith-Schuster, who will have to make a difficult decision in the coming weeks.