Juju Smith Schuster has signed a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. His new contract is for $2.49 million guaranteed, with a number of potential incentives he can earn for a maximum of $7.5million further. JuJu has clearly taken this as a prove-it deal and will look to maximize his returns with Patrick Mahomes as his new quarterback.
How We Got Here…
A young man with an interesting career so far, known for TikTok and dancing on NFL team logos on social media, Smith-Schuster is unfairly criticized for not taking his football seriously; however, those who have watched him regularly know he is a truly dedicated NFL athlete who fights for every single yard on the gridiron and fought to return from IR to play for the Steelers against the Chiefs in the playoffs in 2022 just 3 months after a season-ending injury.
JuJu was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 62nd overall pick. He played for USC in the Pac-12 in his college career, achieving 3092 yards and 25 TDs across 3 years. He was selected to the 2015 All-Pac-12 Team alongside fellow Steeler Zach Banner.
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s arm was injured during the Week 5 game vs Denver Broncos at Heinz Field. He was in motion on a jet sweep play only to be met with significant force by Kareem Jackson, one of the most violent, physical tacklers in any NFL secondary league-wide. He had suffered a dislocated shoulder and would miss 11 games.
The wide receiver achieved only 129 receiving yards in 2021 from 28 targets however anyone who has watched the Steelers‘ inept offense under Ben Roethlisberger in 2021 with its screens and lack of offensive line quality, will know that when Juju was playing the Steelers were a better team and they missed him for the majority of the season.
In comparison to his difficult 2021 season, Smith-Schuster had managed 831 yards from 97 targets for 9 touchdowns in 2020. He has achieved 3,855 career receiving yards and 26 touchdowns in his career so far. Let us not forget his rookie year where he achieved 917 yards and 7 TDs and his 2018 pro bowl 1,426-yard season (voted team MVP for the season).
It should be noted that JuJu Smith-Schuster remained with the Steelers in 2021 by taking less money than he had been offered to play elsewhere. The wideout stayed in Pittsburgh on a one-year $8 million deal, turning down a $9.5 million deal with another $3.5 million in incentives from the Baltimore Ravens (and achieved hero status in Pittsburgh instantly).
The Kansas City Chiefs also offered Smith-Schuster a contract for $8 million last year and are known to have made renewed efforts to sign him again this year.
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Potential Impact Without Tyreek Hill
Smith-Schuster had his best production so far as a WR2 behind Antonio Brown. It will be intriguing to see how the Chiefs plan to use him now Tyreek Hill has left the organization. There could be an argument to be made that Juju Smith-Schuster’s production suffered as Ben Roethlisberger declined in the final two years of his career (receiving yards per target declined from 11.6 to 4.6 from 2017 to 2021), he should naturally improve under Mahomes.
JuJu Smith-Schuster has the personality and leadership traits to lead the Chiefs’ wide receiver room. One would expect Kansas City to now target one or more of the top wideouts in the draft, especially now they have secured some of the Miami Dolphins‘ draft capital which includes the 29th pick (via San Francisco 49ers) of the 2022 NFL Draft (the Chiefs also have the 30th pick).
How will defenses play against the Chiefs this year in the AFC West? It will certainly be one of, if not, the most interesting division in the NFL.