JuJu Smith-Schuster's season with the Patriots ends exactly how it started

New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys
New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

One of the more controversial decisions Bill Belichick made during the 2023 offseason was not re-signing wide receiver Jakobi Meyers and opting to sign JuJu Smith-Schuster instead. Other than the obvious issues with allowing a productive player who had built chemistry and trust with your quarterback to go, bringing in a similar player, or to some a worse one, to replace them is just as troubling.

The Patriots have struggled immensely to add competent pass catchers to their roster over the years. Although Tom Brady was able to turn many of them into stars while in New England, having that same expectation for a young and inexperienced quarterback like Mac Jones is simply unfair. It's what has made the decision to let Meyers walk one of the worst of Belichick's career.

Since he headed out west to play for the Raiders, Meyers has had the best season of his career. Despite playing behind Davante Adams, he's become a fixture within their offense, recording 62 receptions for 690 yards and seven touchdowns through 14 games.

Unsurprisingly, the same cannot be said about Smith-Schuster in New England.

His time as a Patriot has been mediocre, to say the least, and he's not been able to replicate his performances from when he was with the Steelers or even his one-year stint with the Chiefs in 2022. He's dealt with a few injuries this season, which ultimately led to him being placed on injured reserve on Saturday, causing him to miss four games.

Now, he will add two more.

Smith-Schuster is seemingly ending his first year with the Patriots the way it started, and unfortunately, that means disappointingly. He will finish the season with 29 receptions for 260 yards and one touchdown, the worst season of his career outside of the 2021 season, which he only played in five games before injuring his shoulder.

Given his forgettable year and the presumed massive changes incoming this offseason, it will be interesting to see if he will survive free agency without being cut or traded. He's on the books for a good amount of money next year (cap hit of $10.6 million) and will carry a high dead cap no matter if his fate is being cut or traded.

But if the Patriots are going full steam ahead with a dramatic team makeover next year, it wouldn't be shocking to hear that Smith-Schuster isn't on the team in 2024.

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