Will pending free agent WR JuJu Smith-Schuster be back with the Chiefs in 2023?
The Kansas City Chiefs head into the 2023 NFL offseason with some big decisions to make in free agency. Fresh off of Super Bowl LVII, they have plenty of key contributors who are set to become unrestricted free agents. One of the positions where they’ll have a few big decisions is the wide receiver position.
While the Chiefs have indicated they expect to be priced out of Mecole Hardman’s market, what will come of 2022 free-agent signing JuJu Smith-Schuster? The former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout started 16 games in Kansas City and appeared in 19 total games (incl. playoffs). He missed one game this season (Week 11) due to a concussion. Before the concussion, he had three consecutive games with 88 or more yards, including back-to-back games with touchdowns in Week 6 and Week 7. After that injury, he wasn’t quite as effective with only one more game reaching the 88-yard mark all season and only one more touchdown.
His season finish of 78 receptions for 933 yards was good for second behind only TE Travis Kelce. In the postseason, he had just 10 receptions for 89 yards across three games as he dealt with a knee injury. Seven of those receptions came in Super Bowl LVII at pivotal moments in the game, including a few key plays to pick up a first down.
So, will Smith-Schuster be back in Kansas City?
Every indication from the team has been that they want Smith-Schuster back. Andy Reid has indicated that he’s been the perfect complement to Travis Kelce, perhaps even more so than they believed he’d be when they first signed him.
“Yeah, I like his game,” Reid said on the Tuesday following the Super Bowl. “I like the way he helps counter (Travis) Kelce. I think he’s a smart player, great in space, strong hands, all of that. I really like him, but what he bring to the team, his personality, his leadership, he gets it. He’s one of those guys that understands it – what it takes.”
While K.C. would clearly like Smith-Schuster back seems to be some fear that they could get into a bidding war with another team during free agency. ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler, recently indicated that the Chiefs will “attempt” to re-sign him. NFL Network’s James Palmer recently tweeted that Mahomes will be throwing to the same core group of guys next season and that “the plan is to bring back JuJu.”
As for what Smith-Schuster could cost, there seems to be some disagreement. While many are still looking at the receiver market going bananas last year, the market this year might return from the stratosphere. Over The Cap’s valuation chart for Smith-Schuster indicates he’s worth $9.3 million per year on average. Some believe that the lack of star power on the wide receiver market will see Smith-Schuster earning a contract worth $12-15 million per year on average. The likely scenario is that it’s probably somewhere in between and finding that middle ground will be the only way that Smith-Schuster remains in Kansas City.
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