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New England Patriots’ JuJu Smith-Schuster’s knee reportedly a ‘mess’ that could derail his season

The New England Patriots signed wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to a lucrative three-year contract this spring with the hope that he could be a reliable go-to weapon for quarterback Mac Jones. Heading into Week 1, New England might now just be hoping Smith-Schuster stays healthy.

Smith-Schuster, heading into his age-27 season, signed a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason. He played well in 26 games and helped Kansas City win the Super Bowl, but the veteran wideout also missed time and was other times limited by a knee injury.

  • JuJu Smith-Schuster stats (2022): 78 receptions, 933 receiving yards, 47 first downs

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Despite some concerns regarding Smith-Schuster’s long-term health and the longevity of his knee, New England signed him to a $25.5 million contract with $16 million guaranteed at signing. A few months later, it appears there are already concerns with the knee.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated recently reported on NBC Sports Boston that one of the reasons New England kept more wide receivers on its roster is because Smith-Schuster’s knee is a “mess” that could derail his season at any point.

“JuJu Smith-Schuster’s knee is a mess and that thing could explode at any point.”

Albert Breer on JuJu Smith-Schuster’s knee injury

Injuries have been a recurring theme in Smith-Schuster’s career. With the Pittsburgh Steelers, he dealt with hamstring issues, multiple knee sprains, a shoulder injury and a knee bruise. After just six seasons in the NFL, his knee is quickly deteriorating.

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  • JuJu Smith-Schuster contract: $4.674 million cap hit in 2023, $10.633 million cap hit (2024), $10.133 million cap hit in 2025

Some NFL executives were critical of the Patriots’ investment in Smith-Schuster, even before reports emerged that he was still dealing with knee issues this summer. Now, New England is entering the regular season with one of the focal points of its passing offense dealing with a problem that could sideline him at any time.

If Smith-Schuster’s knee gives out on him in 2023, the Patriots could designate him as a pre-June 1 release ($12.266 million dead cap hit) or a post-June 1 release ($9.633 million dead cap), but it would have significant financial ramifications for the franchise.