Kansas City loses its leading wide receiver from a season ago and has some production to replace in his absence.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ 2023 unrestricted free agent class featured some notable names, setting the table for the team to potentially lose some key contributors from its championship run this past season. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was one of those players, and he’s reportedly leaving Kansas City after one season.
Per Taylor Bisciotti of NFL Network, Smith-Schuster is signing with the New England Patriots:
Smith-Schuster was projected by Spotrac to be worth $14.6M per year on the open market, and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the contract is a three-year commitment worth $33 million. The Super Bowl champion was one of the top names among all free agent wideouts, joining the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and a couple of others as far as well-known names were concerned. The receiver market was slow to develop at first, but the process unfolded and resulted in Smith-Schuster getting an offer that caused him to move on from the Chiefs.
In his one and only year as a Chief, Smith-Schuster was targeted 101 times by Patrick Mahomes and hauled in 78 passes for 933 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games (14 starts). He helped the Chiefs pick up 47 first downs on the year via reception, also posting a career-high catch percentage of 77.2 while also averaging his second-best yards per target mark (9.2) since entering the league in 2017. Smith-Schuster signed an incentive-laden deal with the Chiefs last offseason and while he battled some injuries throughout the season, he ended up hitting his benchmarks to earn a decent chunk of change overall and helped parlay it into a free agent contract elsewhere.
Smith-Schuster was quiet for two-and-a-half of the Chiefs’ playoff games this past season, but he came alive in the second half of Super Bowl LVII and helped Kansas City put up enough points to complete its comeback and secure a thrilling victory. In all, the veteran wideout had seven catches for 53 yards in the biggest game of the year and played through a nagging knee injury that he wasn’t originally sure he’d be able to fight past. He now joins a Patriots organization that has some work to do offensively in order to climb up the AFC East — and AFC — standings.
Shortly after the news was reported of his plans to sign with New England, Smith-Schuster tweeted that he’s “excited” for his next chapter:
10 minutes later, he tweeted a thank you to Kansas City.
“Thank you to Kansas City for the giving me the opportunity to come in and contribute to a Super Bowl, the most unforgettable experience of my life. I will always love my teammates, the coaching staff, and the fans for being so great to me. 🙏🏾 💍”
According to Rapoport, things came down to New England versus Kansas City for Smith-Schuster. His heart was in Kansas City, Rapoport mentioned, but the Patriots ultimately offered him more money.