The New England Patriots invested considerable resources in upgrading their offensive personnel this offseason, and no contract handed out was bigger than JuJu Smith-Schuster’s. The veteran wide receiver, who just won a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs, was signed to a three-year, $25.4 million deal.
The pact is a show of confidence: the Patriots trust Smith-Schuster to become a starter-level player in their offense — basically filling the role held by free agency departee Jakobi Meyers — and to bring a dynamic presence to their receiving game.
That confidence goes both ways, as Smith-Schuster pointed out in a recent conversation with patriots.com. He is confident in the team he just joined, and its head coach.
“I’ve always been a fan of Bill [Belichick],” he said. “I played against him a couple of times, actually, when I played in Pittsburgh. Coming here, knowing that he believed in me and to give me this opportunity to play for this team the next couple of years just shows that it’s nice to be here.
“I know what he’s capable of, I know what he’s done in the past, and I know what I can bring to the team. It’s going to be a fun year.”
Smith-Schuster originally entered the NFL as a second-round selection in the 2017 draft. He quickly burst onto the scene with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and over the next few seasons established himself as one of the most productive young pass catchers in the league. However, in part due to a series of injuries, he was unable to keep up the pace he set during his rookie and sophomore campaigns.
He signed back-to-back one-year contracts with Pittsburgh and Kansas City, before again entering free agency this year. The Patriots, who had lost their No. 1 wide receiver from the last three seasons to the Las Vegas Raiders, decided to give him a look.
It remains to be seen whether or not Smith-Schuster can adequately fill Jakobi Meyers’ shoes, but Belichick and company apparently believe in his ability to play good football in the new Bill O’Brien-led offense. What should help the 26-year-old do that is the mindset he brings to the team.
“I love to compete, and I love to win,” he said. “It’s been my motto: I love to work hard, and that’s what I’ve been living by. It’s gotten me to where I am today.”