Bill Belichick's decision to let Jakobi Meyers sign elsewhere comes under fire again

Did the head coach make a mistake in signing JuJu Smith-Schuster instead?
Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots
Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

One of the hottest topics regarding the Patriots in free agency this year was Bill Belichick's decision not to re-sign Jakobi Meyers and instead bring in JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Although their contracts and style of play were similar, Meyers had become an integral part of the Patriots offense in recent years, developing an unmatched chemistry with Mac Jones that concerned those looking ahead to the quarterback's third NFL season.

In an offense that has struggled to find reliable pass-catchers that also played a pivotal role in the success of the offense overall, Meyers' development since he was signed as an undrafted free agent was notable.

He became one of Cam Newton's go-to's during the 2020 season and quickly built a rapport with Jones during his rookie season. That continued through the following season, as Meyers remained the top wide receiver option on the team.

He saw the best season of his career in 2022, recording 67 receptions for 804 yards and six touchdowns, and it was clear he had carved a path to remain atop the depth chart in New England for years to come. But that didn't happen.

Because he was deemed the top available wide receiver in free agency, it was expected that Meyers would receive a lot of attention from receiver-needy teams across the league. But given the bind the Patriots found themselves in offensively with the hope of bouncing back after a down year, it was assumed that Meyers would re-sign with the Patriots.

So when it was announced that the receiver was signing with the Las Vegas Raiders, it shocked almost everyone. The deal wasn't outrageous and appeared to be one that Belichick could have easily matched, which made the coach's decision to let Meyers walk even more perplexing.

That confusion kicked into high gear when news broke that JuJu Smith-Schuster was signing with the Patriots the next day, especially since their reported contracts were nearly identical.

Besides the contract details calling Belichick's decision into question, Smith-Schuster's injury history also raised some eyebrows. The receiver had been reportedly dealing with a knee injury that sidelined him during the 2022 postseason. It continued to be an issue throughout the summer, as the receiver could not participate in many offseason practices.

His signing became a topic again this week after the Patriots' week one loss to the Eagles. As the presumed WR1 that Belichick was looking for when he signed the 26-year-old, Smith-Schuster recorded just four receptions for 33 yards and was only on the field for 54% of all offensive snaps.

Although it was just the first game of the season, comparing his performance to that of Meyers' with the Raiders, totaling nine receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns, concerns about Smith-Schuster's fit with New England and rumors of how the coaches feel about it have swirled online.

It's certainly not unusual for the New England media to jump to conclusions about players, coaches, or the team, which fits right into that pattern. They're also not against stirring up drama and creative false narratives to back it up, citing "sources" that could be simply one person or not even a reliable insider.

This situation screams a media-created mess. It's hard to believe that the Patriots coaching staff has already concluded that Smith-Schuster cannot be a real contributor to the offense after just one game. Not to mention, it was a game against the most recent NFC Champion, who was very close to winning the Super Bowl earlier this year.

Maybe there is some credibility to the alleged gossip, but knowing how Belichick works, it doesn't seem like something that is really taking place. Like any other new player on any team in the league, sometimes it takes longer for them to adjust to their new surroundings and be fully integrated into the offensive game plan.

How the offense looked in week one will be different come week ten. So, let's calm down before spreading fake absolutes about a player.