If receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster hit the open market this offseason, he would be considered the best available player at his position and would likely command a sizable contract from an NFL team. But it appears that the Kansas City Chiefs have no intention of letting Smith-Schuster walk away.
According to NFL Media’s James Palmer on March 7, “The thought in KC right now is Patrick Mahomes is expected to be throwing the same core group of guys he ended the season with,” which means “the plan is to bring Ju Ju back.”
Among the other notable things shared by Palmer was that the Chiefs plan to retain Marquez Valdes-Scantling. He was viewed as a potential cut candidate for Kansas City this offseason due to an opt-out clause in his contract that could save the Chiefs $24 million in cap space over the next two seasons if he was released, per Over The Cap. Instead, the Chiefs will run it back with MVS, who played well during the team’s recent Super Bowl run.
Palmer also revealed that Kansas City believes Kadarius Toney will be the team’s No. 1 wide receiver next season. Last season, Toney was used a gadget player player in the Chiefs’ offense and very rarely caught passes downfield (he had 20 total receptions in the regular season and playoffs combined after being traded).
With that being said — based on his elite skillset and the tools around him in Kansas City, Toney becoming the top receiver on the Chiefs is very possible.
It’s also worth noting that Palmer made no mention of Mecole Hardman, who is a pending free agent. Hardman battled a pelvic injury during the second half of last season and was on injured reserve during Kansas City’s Super Bowl run. Him being omitted from Palmer’s tweet points toward Hardman not returning to the Chiefs once his rookie contract officially expires on March 15.
JuJu Smith-Schuster was Chiefs’ WR1 Last Season
Smith-Schuster, 26, registered 78 catches for 933 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns in 16 games during the 2022 regular season, per Pro Football Reference. In three playoffs games, he caught 10 passes on 12 targets for 89 yards.
“He’s a great balancer for [Travis Kelce], so you like to have somebody with the common components that plays opposite Travis, and JuJu has that,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said prior to Super Bowl LVII, via Pete Sweeney of Arrowhead Pride. “He knows how to play in space. He’s a big target. He’s tough to tackle once he has the ball in his hands. He has great hands. And he’s smart. He understands the game.”
After several down years with the Pittsburgh Steelers following his breakout campaign in 2018, Smith-Schuster took to free agency in 2022 and signed a one-year, prove-it deal with the Chiefs. Since then, JuJu has proved that he is still one of the top receiving threats in the NFL, which has him in line for a potential multi-year deal with the Chiefs in the coming weeks.
“I love JuJu. Great personality,” Reid said on February 7, via Charles Goldman of Chiefs Wire. “He’s surehanded. He’s great after the catch. He’s tough to bring down. And he’s smart. He picked everything up and kept the confidence of the quarterback.”
Twitter Reacts to James Palmer’s Tweet
Twitter users reacted to James Palmer’s tweet regarding Kansas City’s pass catchers.
“Chiefs probably planned for last season to be a familiarization one for the new WRs,” one Twitter user wrote. “This was always going to be the season where the playbook would be opened and fully implemented. The Superbowl win doesn’t seem to have changed that plan. Add 1 vet, draft a rookie, let’s cook.”
“Makes a lot of sense. The free agent market is a little lean compared to last year and it’s foolhardy to expect a lot from a rookie WR in Andy Reid’s offense,” another user wrote. “Tyreek had the best rookie WR season since Reid came to KC with 593 yards. Mecole is second with 538.”