The New England Patriots more or less replaced Jakobi Meyers with JuJu Smith-Schuster last week after NFL free agency kicked off.
Sure, the three-year, $33 million contract Smith-Schuster signed with New England is structured differently than the three-year, $33 million deal Meyers inked with the Las Vegas Raiders, but the Patriots nevertheless swapped out one productive wide receiver for another.
ESPN analytics writer Seth Walder gave the Patriots a “B” grade for the Smith-Schuster signing.
Walder took into account “on-field impact, salary-cap implications, draft compensation, player value/age and the context of a team’s short- and long-term outlook” while grading the biggest free agency moves and trades of the NFL offseason, and Smith-Schuster is a solid player who fit a need for New England.
“The receiver market has been fascinating to me, with Meyers getting substantially less than I would have guessed, and then Allen Lazard and Smith-Schuster following at $11 million per year,” Walder wrote. “The Patriots ended up in the middle here. Meyers is better than Smith-Schuster, but Smith-Schuster is better than Lazard. This contract makes me think less of Lazard’s deal with the Jets, which earned a B at the time but would be lower now. I think New England would have been better off keeping Meyers, but once he was out the door, Smith-Schuster was a decent option to fill a major need in a thin free agent wide receiver market.”
Smith-Schuster, who’s entering his age-27 campaign, spent five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers before signing with the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason. He caught 78 passes for 933 yards with three touchdowns in 2022, his lone season alongside Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, and now joins a New England offense led by third-year quarterback Mac Jones.
The Patriots still could use more help at receiver, with DeAndre Hopkins of the Arizona Cardinals and Jerry Jeudy of the Denver Broncos being popular names tossed around in trade speculation. Several intriguing names figure to be available when New England picks at No. 14 in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, as well.
But adding Smith-Schuster is a fine start, though, especially when coupled with the addition of tight end Mike Gesicki, a deal that also garnered a “B” grade from Walder.