JuJu Smith-Schuster Wants To Re-Sign With Chiefs

JuJu Smith-Schuster used this season to show form resembling his early-career version, leading Chiefs wide receivers in yardage by a wide margin. Soon set for a third run as a free agent, the sixth-year veteran has put himself in position to cash in.

The former Steelers second-round pick has signed one-year deals in each of the past two offseasons, but his 933 receiving yards are his most since the 2018 Pro Bowl season. That ’18 campaign alongside Antonio Brown still looks like an outlier (1,426 yards), though Smith-Schuster has been integral to the Chiefs’ post-Tyreek Hill operation. Already collecting millions in incentives, the USC alum can earn another $1MM by playing 50% of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LVII offensive snaps. With Smith-Schuster no longer on Kansas City’s injury report, that seems likely to happen.

Although Smith-Schuster should have a bigger market compared to his 2021 and ’22 free agency forays, he said (via NFL.com’s Mike Giardi, on Twitter), “Yeah, I want to come back. Of course, man. Look where I’m at? I want to come back to this.”

The Chiefs gave Smith-Schuster a one-year deal worth $3.76MM. This came after the Steelers re-signed him for one year and $8MM in 2021. This year’s unremarkable free agent wide receiver contingent will benefit Smith-Schuster, who is still just 26. He joins the likes of Jakobi Meyers, DJ Chark, Allen Lazard, Parris Campbell and teammate Mecole Hardman as the top young wideouts available. Odell Beckham Jr. will resurface, but the 30-year-old’s injury past will complicate his market — as it did this year.

Smith-Schuster stands to be one of the top pass catchers available come March, unless he re-signs with the Chiefs before the market opens. Spotrac pegs his value at north of $14MM per year; that could complicate a path 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 that helped lead the Giants to trade him. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, however, is under Chiefs control beyond this season.

When the Chiefs signed Smith-Schuster, they still had Hill on their roster. But the eventual AFC champions may have been in the initial stages of moving on from their unparalleled deep threat. Smith-Schuster’s low-cost pact came hours after the Raiders transformed the receiver market with their Davante Adams trade.

It was crazy. I was hoping Tyreek and Travis [Kelce] were going to be our guys,” Smith-Schuster said, via the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy. “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 make plays for this team.”

The Chiefs may have advanced to the Super Bowl without Hill, but the new Dolphin totaled a career-high 1,710 yards this season. Kansas City’s deep-passing numbers also dropped, with Next Gen Stats charting Patrick Mahomes throwing deep on just 8.2% of his attempts — a career-low figure. That marked a steep drop from his first MVP season (15.2%); that number also stood at 10% in 2021, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe notes.

We had hoped to bring him back; it was our goal initially to bring him back. But the receiver market really shifted this offseason,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said (via Volin) of Hill, whom the team traded March 23. “It was something that nobody wanted to see happen, but it was the right decision. And then [GM Brett Veach] did a fantastic job with the draft capital that he received in bringing in new players, mostly on the defensive side.”

The Chiefs had begun Hill extension talks in early March; his previous deal ran through 2022. But Hill confirmed his price point changed after Adams’ $28MM-per-year deal surfaced. Hill said it would not have taken $30MM per year for him to stay in Kansas City, but the Chiefs moved on anyway. Veach addressed the franchise’s roster-building shift compared to Mahomes’ rookie-contract years. It will be interesting to see how high Kansas City will go to retain Smith-Schuster, who will have a tough decision to make in the coming weeks.

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