The Kansas City Chiefs signed the veteran wide receiver on Friday. Here is what he will bring to the table and how he can make the Chiefs better.
The AFC West turned into an arms race during the first week of free agency with the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos, and Las Vegas Raiders all making significant moves to dethrone the Chiefs. The first week from the Chiefs’ end was fairly quiet, but late Friday afternoon they made the move to bring in JuJu Smith-Schuster, a move that looks to inject talent into the wide receiver core immediately.
For the last few seasons, the Chiefs struggle to find any consistency after Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce when it came to finding capable pass catchers. Mecole Hardman appears to be moved into a wide-back type roll, the Chicago Bears signed Byron Pringle, and Demarcus Robinson is a free agent. This move may seem like a luxury move, but the rest of the AFC West has completely sold out to stop the Chiefs passing attack. We have seen times when Mahomes, Hill, and Kelce were not enough to win games, notably the AFC Championship game. When those guys were shut down by the coverage no one else had the ability to get open. The Chiefs will not get caught in a similar situation next season.
Smith-Schuster has experience lining up all over as an X, Z, but he seems most comfortable in the slot, and it is where he has seen the most success. He has seen production dips the last couple of seasons, but in his second year when paired with Antonio Brown in 2018 he had his best season ever. Kansas City will put him in a similar situation, but a bonus for Smith-Schuster is that he will go from catching passes from Ben Roethlisberger to catching passes from Patrick Mahomes. This should help him unlock new levels to his game that we have yet to see yet.
The versatility and physicality that Smith-Schuster brings will give the Chiefs more than a capable playmaker. He has a mean streak to his game and looks to finish plays till the whistle blows. This is something the Chiefs have been missing and could lead to several favorable mismatches in the secondary.
A one-year contract worth up to $10.75 million dollars and a base value of only three million makes it a very team-friendly deal and one that the Chiefs were likely working on for a while. It has the feeling that they had their minds up that they wanted to pursue Smith-Schuster from the time the final while blew against Cincinnati. Unlike the other big-name available free agents Smith-Schuster has had experience not being a team’s first option to go to. This is where he thrived early on in Pittsburgh and where he should thrive in Kansas City. This very much prove it deal, and despite the contract being only one season, it feels like if the team is pleased with what they get out of Smith-Schuster he could stick around for a while, especially if he develops chemistry with Patrick Mahomes.
Brett Veach has solved one piece of the puzzle so far this offseason, it will be interesting to see how he proceeds moving forward, but the Chiefs offense should once again be the most dangerous in the NFL, but now instead of just pure speed, they will add physicality.