Pittsburgh Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster is keeping his talents in Pennsylvania. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the 24-year-old signed a new one-year contract with the AFC powerhouse on Friday.
NFL Network’s Taylor Bisciotti reported that the Pro Bowl receiver received offers from a number of teams across the league, including the Kansas City Chiefs. The two-time defending AFC champions even offered a somewhat better deal than the $8 million contract that Pittsburgh won out with.
Though the $8 million total salary ($1 million base and $7 million signing bonus) remains the same, the Chiefs were ready to pay an additional $3 million in incentives for the California native.
Like Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Smith-Schuster was drafted in 2017 and has compiled 308 receptions, 3,726 yards and 26 receiving touchdowns in 58 games through his first four seasons.
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Chiefs off to a Rocky Start in Free Agency
Considering they boast one of the most electrifying offenses in the NFL, one would think players across the league would happily take the opportunity to play under head coach Andy Reid and alongside Mahomes. Unfortunately, things haven’t been so easy for general manager Brett Veach this week.
The Chiefs were seriously keen on bringing on Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, even enlisting the help of Mahomes to personally contact the 32-year-old star to make one final appeal. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported the Chiefs were “in it to the end” and even came close to the eventual six-year, $138 million contract Williams inked with the San Francisco 49ers early Wednesday morning. Matt Barrows of The Athletic detailed how the five-time champions eventually got an edge over their Super Bowl LIV opponents.
“According to those privy to the conversations, Mahomes made a strong pitch in texts and phone calls to Williams about joining him as the Chiefs’ new left tackle,” Barrows wrote.
“Mahomes grew up in East Texas, about 30 minutes from where Williams was raised. They know each other well, which was an added incentive.”
He continued: “The winning element was loyalty. Williams has a bond with Kyle Shanahan, having played under him for four seasons in Washington. Williams also credits Shanahan for helping to extricate him from his unhappy situation in Washington a year ago.”
As a small consolation, the Chiefs were able to sign former Chicago Bears Pro Bowler Kyle Long to sign a one-year deal worth up to $5 million deal later on Wednesday, so not all was lost. However, the gap in talent between Williams and the next-available free agent tackle is astronomical, so that loss will likely sting a little longer than normal for Kansas City.
Is Sammy Watkins Still on His Way Out?
Chiefs free agent WR Sammy Watkins has yet to find a new NFL team this offseason, but he’s not allowing the confusion around his future to disrupt his spirit.
Watkins was a major force during the team’s Super Bowl LIV run, but his injury spells have proven costly for the Chiefs over the past three seasons, including eight total absences in 2020. The former Clemson star has missed 14 regular season games since arriving in 2018 and didn’t play in Kansas City’s two AFC playoff games in January. Watkins was active for Super Bowl LV, but had just one catch for 13 yards in the 31-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Nonetheless, the 27-year-old remains confident in his future, as indicated by an early Friday morning tweet confirming he’ll be “extremely happy” playing for whatever franchise he eventually calls home.
Watkins followed up the above message with additional words of wisdom almost 12 hours later.
According to reports from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Schefter on Monday, Watkins has official visits set up with the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts this week, with additional interest from the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans.