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Patriots 90-Man Roster Spotlight: JuJu Smith-Schuster

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New England Patriots wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (7) runs with the ball past Pittsburgh Steelers safety Damontae Kazee (23) during the first half of an NFL football game on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Pittsburgh. He was the Patriots highest graded offensive player by Pro Football Focus in Week 14 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The New England Patriots can have up to 90 players under contract during the offseason. Patriots Football Now will profile all 90 players (though there are currently 91 on the roster) over the upcoming months. Today’s featured player is wide receiver JuJu Smth-Schuster.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Smith-Schuster is a 27-year-old wide receiver who just completed his first season in New England. He finished 2023 with 29 receptions, 260 receiving yards, and one touchdown. Smith-Schuster appeared in 11 games last season for the Patriots. Several medical issues prevented him from playing in more games. He entered the season with known knee issues. During the season he suffered a concussion, which caused him to miss two games. During his best game of the season against Pittsburgh in Week 14 he injured his ankle. The injury kept him sidelined for the remainder of the season.

JuJu Smith-Schuster had a career year with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018. He had 111 receptions, 1,486 yards, and seven touchdowns in his second NFL season. However, that was his only 1,000-yard campaign in his five years in Pittsburgh. He played one season with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2022, winning a Super Bowl, before joining the New England Patriots in free agency.

Also Read – Sixteen NFL Free Agents Who Should Interest the Patriots

The Patriots signed Smith-Schuster in free agency in 2023. His contract was similar to that of Jakobi Meyers, the Patriots leading receiver who had just left New England to sign with Las Vegas  In the first season following their respective deals, Meyers was significantly more productive. While Smith-Schuster was not responsible for the Patriots’ personnel decisions, the comparison did him no favors in winning over Patriots fans.

(via Stathead.com)

Pro Football Focus viewed Smith-Schuster unfavorably in 2023. His offensive grade for the season was 57.0, the worst of his career. For reference, a grade below 70.0 isn’t considered worthy of starting. A grade below 60.0 represents being replaceable by a non-roster player. His PFF had been 70.1 in 2022, with a career-best of  81.8 in 2018.

Contract Status

JuJu Smith-Schuster still has two years remaining on his contract with New England. However,

According to Patriots salary cap expert Miguel Benzan, parting ways with the wide receiver would affect the salary cap situation as follows:

Post-June 2 Cut – $267K in 2024; +$7.5M in 2025
Post-June 2 Trade +$6.7M in 2024; +$7.5 M in 2025

Wide Receivers Group

The New England Patriots have 12 wide receivers on their 90-man offseason roster. The unit can be broken down into four groups.

Returning Patriots: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne, DeMario Douglas, Jalen Reagor, Tyquan Thornton, and Kayshon Boutte.

NFL Veterans: K.J. Osborn and Kawaan Baker.

2024 NFL Draft Picks: Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker.

UDFA: David Wallis and JaQuae Jackson.

Outlook for JuJu Smith-Schuster

Jerod Mayo called the Patriots wide receiver room a “wide-open competition” heading into training camp. Kendrick Bourne, still recovering from an ACL injury that ended his 2023 season, could remain inactive to start the season. This would give the rest of the group additional opportunities to earn a roster spot in training camp.

DeMario Douglas and rookies Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker all seem like locks to make the 53-man roster, barring something unforeseen. Kawaan Baker and the undrafted free agents all seem like long shots to make the active roster, more likely vying for a practice squad spot. That leaves five veterans vying for two or three spots even if Bourne begins the year on PUP or IR.

Smith-Schuster has had the most productive NFL career of anyone in the Patriots wide receiver room. It’s likely he never replicates his numbers from his peak in Pittsburgh. However, only two seasons ago he was WR1 on a Kansas City team that won the Super Bowl. He is reportedly healthier than at any point last season. If Jerod Mayo is genuine about it being a “wide-open competition” the opportunity is there for JuJu Smith-Schuster to succeed. If not, the New England Patriots can part ways without much financial repercussion.

Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.

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