Cap hit: $4,674,509
From his initial signing in free agency last year to the end of his first season in New England, JuJu Smith-Schuster has remained a gripe for most Patriots fans. Because Bill Belichick chose to sign him over extending Jakobi Meyers despite both earning similar contracts, his tenure started on the wrong fit right away. Unfortunately, his production throughout the year didn't help much.
Smith-Schuster was presumably brought in as Meyers' replacement as the team's WR1, which looked possible after seeing how he did with the Chiefs in 2022. In his one season in Kansas City, he recorded the second-best statistical season of his career with 78 receptions for 933 yards and three touchdowns.
However, knee issues were immediately a concern and became a consistent problem for the receiver throughout 2023, forcing him to miss six games and end the year on injured reserve.
Because of that, coupled with performance issues, Smith-Schuster totaled just 29 receptions for 260 yards and a touchdown, most of which came after Kendrick Bourne's season ended early due to injury.
His overall uninspiring performance continued to draw comparisons to the season Meyers' had with the Raiders, making Belichick's decision to pay Smith-Schuster a similar contract a giant mistake that will likely go down as one of the worst decisions of the head coach's career.
Cap hit: $4,450,000
Similar to Smith-Schuster, the Patriots' decision to sign Mike Gesicki in free agency was believed to be to fit a specific role. After the failed experiment with Jonnu Smith ended by trading him to the Falcons, Hunter Henry was the lone tight end remaining on the team and needed a competent counterpart to help boost the offense.
Gesicki was considered one of the best free agent signings by any team in the league, and there was a lot of optimism that he would become exactly what the team hoped Smith would have been during his time in Foxboro.
That never came to fruition, though.
The hope was he would be a top red zone target, as he had been in years past with the Dolphins, and Henry would continue to fill the blocking role since Gesicki wasn't skilled in that way. But through the entire season, he recorded just 29 receptions for 244 yards and two touchdowns, not exactly the production the team was hoping for.
So even though he was available for all 17 games and avoided any injury issues, signing a tight end to a decent contract only for him to give you two touchdowns and the least amount of yardage other than his rookie season is not ideal.