Either through the draft, free agency or via a trade, the New England Patriots need to find a way to upgrade their wide receiver depth this offseason. There is no telling what they will do, but they have their options despite a limited amount of salary cap space currently available.
One of those is wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers — a player actually projected to land in New England by Pro Football Focus. The reasoning behind the predicted one-year contract is as follows:
WR JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Prediction: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – One year, $8 million ($6.25 million guaranteed)
Smith-Schuster turned down a multi-year deal with the Chiefs last offseason then proceeded to get injured early in the 2021 season. Thus, it’ll probably be tough for him to get a multi-year deal on the market for the value he wants. He’s still only 25 years old and has logged five years in the league, so he will still be an attractive option for WR needy teams.
One of those teams should be the Patriots, who need to get Mac Jones more weapons. Smith-Schuster can serve as a reliable receiver out of the slot for New England.
Smith-Schuster is entering free agency off a productive five-year run in Pittsburgh, but he did post the worst season of his career in 2021. Accordingly, the Patriots might be able to get him on the cheap.
The question is whether or not investing in the 25-year-old makes sense from the team’s perspective. That can be questioned.
Smith-Schuster, after all, aligns primarily inside the formation — a spot where New England is well-equipped at the moment with Kendrick Bourne and tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith all under contract. Add the fact that the Patriots will also likely re-sign Jakobi Meyers in restricted free agency and one has to wonder whether adding Smith-Schuster actually makes sense.
More realistically, the Patriots will try to target a perimeter target. They do have Nelson Agholor and N’Keal Harry signed for 2022, but the former is coming off a comparatively quiet season while the latter is likely on his way out.