Why did Patriots exchange Jakobi Meyers with JuJu Smith-Schuster?

Jakobi Meyers is out in New England. And JuJu Smith-Schuster is a Patriot.

The two strikes occurred inside 30 hours of each other. And clearly, when Meyers determined to go away for the Las Vegas Raiders, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots had some urgency to lock up Smith-Schuster, the one different prime wideout in the marketplace. 

It’s a daring determination for New England and Belichick, given their historical past of struggling to usher in wideouts. The Patriots handed on a recognized entity in Meyers (who led their workforce in receiving yards the previous two years) as a way to purchase a participant with potential and upside. 

Those are harmful phrases in New England, particularly when speaking about receivers. Belichick has struggled to capitalize on potential and upside. But that is the extensively held perception about Smith-Schuster — that he has extra pure expertise than a man like Meyers. And that is as a result of, from a manufacturing standpoint, Smith-Schuster has performed extra.

They’re related gamers: huge slot receivers who’ve the flexibility to play inside and outside. Smith-Schuster is 26 years previous. He’s 6-foot-1 and 215 kilos. He ran a 4.54-second 40-yard sprint on the 2017 NFL Combine. Meyers can also be 26. He’s 6-foot-2 and 200 kilos. He ran a 4.63 40 throughout his pre-draft course of in 2019. 

My guess is that, in the event you requested Belichick candidly what Smith-Schuster can do for the Patriots, he’d say that JSS can do all of what Meyers does — and, probably, extra. 

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Patriots signal JuJu Smith-Schuster to three-year deal

Patriots sign JuJu Smith-Schuster to three-year deal

The Patriots landed JuJu Smith-Schuster to switch Jakobi Meyers, who signed with the Raiders. Colin Cowherd argues this transfer reveals that New England is behind the occasions.

While we’re evaluating JSS and Meyers, it is value wanting on the two contracts they signed. Nominally, these offers look equivalent, with Meyers set to make $33 million over three years and Smith-Schuster set to signal a contract with … those self same phrases. But wanting nearer, Meyers has simply his first yr assured. In essence, he signed a one-year, $11-million deal. Smith-Schuster, in the meantime, is taking a look at realistically making $18 million in his first two years. It’s not apples to apples. New England is making a smaller annual dedication — however a barely longer-term one.

But New England is clearly not paying JSS like a WR1.

We have but to see Smith-Schuster succeed as the highest choice in an offense. The Steelers requested JuJu to take over the WR1 mantle in 2019, and he had one among his worst seasons: 42 catches, 552 yards, three touchdowns.

Smith-Schuster had an unlimited yr in 2018, logging 1,426 yards and 7 touchdowns — however JSS posted these numbers because the workforce’s WR2 behind Antonio Brown, who was on the excessive level of his profession. As the Chiefs’ No. 2 choice (behind Travis Kelce) in 2022, Smith-Schuster posted 78 catches for 933 yards and three touchdowns on the best way to successful a Super Bowl. 

It may be a tricky projection for the Patriots to count on they will create that very same manufacturing stage. Smith-Schuster, in spite of everything, was in an offense with Kelce, Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. In 2023, he’s at the moment slated to work with Mac Jones, Hunter Henry and Bill O’Brien.

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So why exchange Meyers, a superbly good WR2, with Smith-Schuster, one other WR2? Why take away Jones’ favourite goal from the previous two seasons?

It isn’t a surprise for Belichick to develop an undrafted participant right into a top-tier free agent — and let that man go, just like the Patriots have performed with Meyers. And it is not even a shock to see New England assault the free-agent market on the similar place. We noticed Belichick signal cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the sort of deal Malcolm Butler needed in 2017 — whereas Butler finally moved on to the Tennessee Titans. (And that call labored tremendously for the Patriots.) But Belichick has a historical past of bringing in cornerbacks and serving to them make an instantaneous influence. He doesn’t have the identical historical past with receivers, a place at which New England has struggled enormously to maximise its acquisitions. 

The Patriots certainly like Henry, who had success of their offense in 2021. New England may also suppose it may get extra out of receivers Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker and 2022 second-rounder Tyquan Thornton. But none of them — JSS included — figures to be a top-tier choice.

Maybe New England is not performed including pass-catchers. Maybe Belichick will goal an elite choice. The offseason is simply getting began, and the Patriots have engaged in commerce conversations relating to receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Jerry Jeudy, per The Athletic. Tight finish Dalton Schultz can also be a free agent and has the potential to be an elite TE1. Certainly, one other addition would assist Smith-Schuster excel in his new state of affairs.

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But by swapping out Smith-Schuster and Meyers, the Patriots are betting they will usher in a brand new participant and get extra out of him. New England is betting on O’Brien to deliver Smith-Schuster in control on the offense. And, possibly, Jones may help the Patriots deliver out the 2018 model of Smith-Schuster — or, on the very least, Jones may help JSS proceed the regular output he managed in Kansas City final season.

Prior to becoming a member of FOX Sports because the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years masking the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.

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