This offseason was set to be unlike any in recent history for the Patriots; with so many improvements needed to be made to the staff and roster, there was a lot of pressure to make the right moves.
Bill Belichick worked swiftly to hire the right personnel to replace the most problematic coach of the 2022 season, Matt Patricia, by bringing in Bill O'Brien and Adrian Klemm. Both hires were universally approved and brought excitement for the impending free agency to begin.
There was hope we would see a repeat of the 2021 offseason when Belichick spent a record amount of money to bring new talent to the roster. But even though that didn't happen, the players he did sign have been receiving a lot of hype since arriving in New England.
After the initial shock and disappointment of seeing Jakobi Meyers sign with the Raiders instead of returning to the Patriots, Belichick seemingly signed his replacement in JuJu Smith-Schuster. He wasn't necessarily the receiver fans were hoping for, but he certainly adds an interesting dynamic to an improving offense.
Other than feeling like Smith-Schuster's signing was meant to replace what they lost in Meyers, some argued it may have actually been an upgrade. Although Meyers earned his way atop the Patriots' receiver list, he wasn't widely considered a true WR1 outside New England.
Now that we've finally reached the acceptance point regarding Meyers' departure and Smith-Schuster's arrival, more optimism is being discussed about the Super Bowl-winning receiver's potential in a Patriots uniform.
The latest outlet to hype the Patriots' free-agent signing is Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report, who recently declared Smith-Schuster the team's most dangerous addition for the 2023 season.
Knox discussed Meyers' impact during his tenure with the Patriots and the best parts of his game while declaring that Smith-Schuster "is closer to being a true No. 1 receiver for New England."
He also compared their performances in 2022, which were closer than most probably realize. He noted that Smith-Schuster's passer rating was significantly better, likely due to catching passes from Patrick Mahomes than Mac Jones.
"Meyers caught 67 passes for 804 yards and six touchdowns but provided a passer rating of only 67.0 when targeted. Smith-Schuster caught 78 passes for 933 yards and three scores while providing a 102.5 rating—though he did benefit from playing with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City."
In regards to what makes Smith-Schuster more WR1 worthy than Meyers and the Patriots' most dangerous addition? Knox cites the versatility he brings to an offense and how that will benefit Mac Jones' performance this upcoming season.
"Smith-Schuster can also play on the perimeter or in the slot, which will provide some options for new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien and the Patriots passing attack.
While adding Smith-Schuster alone might not return quarterback Mac Jones to the Pro Bowl form he showed as a rookie in 2021, it will provide some potency to the Patriots' passing game."
So as the offense goes through another dramatic change now that O'Brien is in the building, how he will implement Smith-Schuster will be intriguing to watch.
The receiver's unique skillset will allow more creativity with play designs, like the usage of more RPOs which O'Brien and Jones have historically preferred to use, while also providing them limitless opportunities to stretch the field as he totaled 465 of his 933 yards after the catch last season.
There are a lot of questions regarding the Patriots' offense heading into the season, including how Smith-Schuster will perform in a brand-new environment. However, his game has more upsides than continuing to reminisce about what was lost with Meyers.
Could he become the WR1 they've been looking for over the last few years? Possibly. He fits a lot of the characteristics needed to be just that. If what was written by Knox is close to accurate, then maybe Belichick deserves more credit for this signing than what he's gotten.