JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s first season with the Patriots has come to an end. The team announced on Saturday that he has been placed on injured reserve.
The 27-year-old has missed the past two games, and he will not return for the final two contests of the campaign. Smith-Schuster joined New England on a three-year, $25MM deal in free agency following his one-year stint in Kansas City. Today’s move marks an end to a disappointing first run with the Patriots.
Smith-Schuster – who upped his value in 2022 by posting 933 yards on 78 catches with the defending champions- put up far less production this year. The former Steelers draftee delivered a 29-260-1 statline in 11 contests with New England, ranking him just sixth on the team in receiving. Especially given the lack of high-end playmakers on the team, his ability to return to full heath and his previous form in 2024 will be critical for the Patriots.
Not much has gone according to plan on offense for New England, a team which faces uncertainty under center and on the sidelines heading into the offseason. Smith-Schuster’s $7MM base salary for next season is guaranteed, however, meaning he will at least remain in place for the start of the next campaign. A rebound would help a passing attack which has struggled with both Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe at the helm in 2023, something which has produced a league-low 14.1 points per game on offense.
Today’s news means that as the Patriots close out the campaign – a two-game stretch which could see them move higher up the 2024 draft order – they will be without another skill-position player. Lead running back Rhamondre Stevenson has also been moved to IR, shutting him down for the season. New England will finish its schedule against the Bills and Jets with a shorthanded group of pass-catchers. To fill Smith-Schuster’s roster spot, safety Joshuah Bledsoe was signed off the practice squad.