Patriots Can Get 103-Catch ‘Upgrade’ Over Juju Smith-Schuster in Trade Proposal

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Getty The New England Patriots can get an "upgrade" over JuJu Smith-Schuster before the NFL trade deadline.

Things haven’t worked out for JuJu Smith-Schuster with the New England Patriots. He’s not been a steady target from the slot for quarterback Mac Jones, but the Pats could move on by trading for a 103-catch replacement, Las Vegas Raiders’ wide receiver Hunter Renfrow.

He “could represent an upgrade in the slot” for a Patriots’ offense hamstrung by a “lack of reliable targets,” according to Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox. Renfrow, who snagged 100-plus receptions in 2021, “has seen a mere 12 targets through seven games.”

It’s a waste of a gifted playmaker underneath, the type of pass-catcher who used to be a staple of Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick’s system.

2021 Pro Bowler an Oft-Named Trade Target for Patriots

The Pats dealing for Renfrow has been suggested more than once this month, ahead of the NFL trade deadline on Tuesday, October 31. Back on October 12, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell floated the idea of the Patriots swapping Kendrick Bourne for Renfrow.

This scenario would be less than ideal because Bourne has been flashing potential in coordinator Bill O’Brien’s offense. He has 34 catches for 370 yards and three touchdowns, including this scoring grab against the Buffalo Bills in Week 7.

Bourne is playing his best football in New England, but it’s been a different story for Smith-Schuster.

Patriots Already Encouraged to Dump JuJu Smith-Schuster

Dispatching Smith-Schuster back to the Kansas City Chiefs mere months after having signed him in free agency would be an admission of defeat by the Patriots. Yet, the idea is already being mooted.

Admitting defeat might be Belichick’s best move because Smith-Schuster hasn’t delivered. The 26-year-old has been targeted just 25 times, hardly what the Pats expected for a veteran who’s usually prolific between the numbers.

A concussion has kept Smith-Schuster out of the last two games, but it’s not as if Jones has missed him. Finding a replacement now makes sense, especially if Belichick could swing a deal for Renfrow.

Hunter Renfrow Better Suited to O’Brien’s Offense

O’Brien first called plays for the Pats in 2011, a season when Wes Welker caught 122 passes. A shifty, slot specialist, Welker was part of a blueprint that served the Patriots well for years.

Slot pass-catchers like Troy Brown, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman all thrived in this same role. It’s ironic then, Renfrow hasn’t done the same with the Raiders for former New England OC Josh McDaniels.

Perhaps working with O’Brien could get Renfrow back to his 2021 levels. No. 13 dominated inside and from the red zone that year, like for this touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers, highlighted by Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus.

Moments like this have been few and far between since McDaniels became head coach in 2022. Player and coach have a “fractured relationship,” making it likely the Raiders are open to moving Renfrow on before the deadline, according to Bleacher Report NFL Insider Jordan Schultz.

If Belichick can use his connection to McDaniels to swing a team-friendly trade, the Patriots would give Jones a reliable, go-to target from the slot. One who can make plays after the catch, like for this touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season.

Adding Renfrow alongside Bourne, DeVante Parker and exciting rookie Demario Douglas would give the Pats more incentive to try and deal Smith-Schuster.