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Examining the JuJu Smith-Schuster contract incentives with the Kansas City Chiefs

Matt Johnson

Before the Kansas City Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill, the franchise signed JuJu Smith-Schuster to provide quarterback Patrick Mahomes with an intriguing weapon. After first being reported at $10.75 million, the base amount turned out to be much more favorable for the team.

The original terms of the deal are a steal for Kansas City. A year after Smith-Schuster turned down more money for a return to the Pittsburgh Steelers, he signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Chiefs. For a cash-strapped franchise, the $2.89 million cap hit was a bargain.

  • JuJu Smith-Schuster stats (2020-’21): 112 receptions, 960 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns in 21 games

Smith-Schuster corrected his mistake a year later, signing with a team that allows him to catch passes from Mahomes. The deal comes with numerous incentives, marks that might have been more challenging to reach if Hill stayed in Kansas City.

With Hill now joining the Miami Dolphins, things are looking up for Smith-Schuster.

Breaking down the incentives in JuJu Smith-Schuster’s contract

NFL: AFC Wild Card Playoffs-Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
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Coming off a season with only 129 receiving yards in five games, it’s fair to say Kansas City is buying low on Smith-Schuster. Before a shoulder injury derailed his 2021 campaign, Smith-Schuster averaged 77 receptions annually in each of his first four years with the Steelers.

Thanks to reporting from Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, a path towards Smith-Schuster earning a significant portion of his $7.5 million in bonuses becomes a lot more clear.

If Smith-Schuster snags 40-plus catches during the 2022 NFL season, he’s guaranteed a $500,000 bonus. Assuming he stays healthy, Smith-Schuster would need to average fewer than 3 receptions per game to hit that marker.

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The bonus size increases for each milestone that Smith-Schuster clears during the upcoming season. He’ll receive an additional $500,000 bonus ($1 million total) for hitting 50-plus receptions. If he hauls in 65-plus receptions, he can earn a maximum bonus of $1.5 million.

Keep in mind, Mahomes attempted 658 passes in 2021. Hill snagged 111 receptions and drew 159 targets, creating a massive void to fill. Operating under the assumption Mahomes starts all 17 games and attempts 650-plus throws, Smith-Schuster would likely only need 90-plus targets to record 65 receptions. Even the most cautious projections will likely have the former second-round pick finishing with 60-plus catches.

There are additional incentives written into the contract. Smith-Schuster will receive an additional $500,000 bonus for surpassing the 500-yard mark. If he eclipses 650 receiving yards, Kansas City pays him a $1 million total bonus. There is an additional $500,000 on the table if Smith-Schuster records the third 900-yard season in his NFL career.

Kansas City also included clauses tied into playing time, per Pro Football Talk. If the veteran wide receiver is on the field for 45% of the team’s snaps, he receives an added $500,000 bonus. Playing more than 65% of the snaps would earn him $1.5 million total.

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Incentives for team accomplishments

  • $500,000 bonus if JuJu Smith-Schuster plays more than 50% of snaps in AFC Championship, KC wins
  • $500,000 bonus if Smith-Schuster plays in at least 50% of the snaps in the Super Bowl, KC wins

While it will take a lot to go right for Smith-Schuster to earn the full $10.5 million max value, this isn’t a bad contract for him. He’s headed for a featured role in the Chiefs’ offense and could turn that into one of the best seasons in his career and incentive would reward him for it.

Best of all, he could hit the open market again next offseason before his age-27 season. Ultimately, this could prove to be a win-win deal for both parties.