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NFL executive blasts New England Patriots for JuJu Smith-Schuster contract

The New England Patriots made one of the biggest splashes in NFL free agency by signing wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Now, that decision by Bill Belichick is coming under some criticism from one of his peers.

Coming off an underwhelming season by their offense, New England wanted to make significant changes this spring. Matt Patricia, who served as the offensive play-caller for much of the 2022 season, was let go and replaced by Bill O’Brien.

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New England strengthened its offensive line with right tackle Riley Reiff and replaced tight end Jonnu Smith with Mike Gesicki. However, the biggest change to the offensive personnel came with the Patriots letting Jakobi Meyers leave in free agency then replacing him with Smith-Schuster.

Smith-Schuster and Meyers signed contracts that were fairly close. Las Vegas signed Meyers to a three-year deal worth $33 million, including a $5.5 million signing bonus, while Smith-Schuster received $25.5 million over three seasons with a $7.9 million signing bonus.

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While both contracts were close, one AFC executive told Mike Sando of Heavy.com that he believes the Patriots’ signing of Smith-Schuster was one of the more questionable moves of the NFL offseason.

“That Juju Smith-Schuster deal was a surprise. Big contract for an average player.”

AFC personnel executive on New England Patriots wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster

While Meyers proved to be the more effective target in 2022, New England likely prioritized fit within O’Brien’s scheme. Smith-Schuster averaged a higher yards after the catch per reception (5.9) than Meyers (3.6) and the Patriots’ offense lacked explosive playmakers this past year.

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The contract itself doesn’t really hurt the Patriots much in the long run. Smith-Schuster only has a $4.674 million cap hit this season and his $10.633 million cap hit in 2024 is reasonable for a slot wide receiver. If he doesn’t meet expectations after two seasons, New England can cut him In 2025 and create $7.5 million in cap savings.

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