Patriots $25 Million ‘Bust’ Finally Reveals Controversial Injury

Patriots WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

Getty Patriots WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

By any measure, last NFL season was a disaster for Patriots receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. He played in only 11 games, and made a grand total of 29 catches for 260 yards, a considerable drop from the 933 yards on 78 catches he racked up in Kansas City the previous season. There was considerable speculation about the state of his injured knee, which was downplayed by both Smith-Schuster and the team.

In fact, just before last season kicked off, insider Albert Breer said on NBC Sports Boston that, “The underrated story here: JuJu Smith Schuster’s knee is a mess, and that thing could explode at any point. So, you almost have to keep an extra receiver because of that.”

To which Smith-Schuster responded that his knee was actually getting better all the time, and (via labeled Breer a reporter, “trying to find a story . . . that’s how the world works, right?”

But his performance showed the Breer was onto something. And on Monday, Schuster-Smith finally admitted that, yes, his knee was not right in 2023.

“Last year (in May) I was probably at like 60%. Right now I’m like 100%. So it’s a big difference,” Smith-Schuster said, via MassLive. “It’s not easy coming off a knee injury and having a long season and coming back really short.”

JuJu Smith Schuster Earned a Bust Label

That’s understandable, but at the same time, Smith-Schuster was clearly being less than honest about the state of his knee, which required a so-called “clean-up surgery” after he helped the Chiefs win a Super Bowl in February 2023.

The Patriots checked him out, of course, and were aware of the knee issue. But the team gave him a three-year, $25 million contract anyway, opting to let the previous season’s top target, Jakobi Meyers, leave on a three-year, $33 million deal with the Raiders.

It remains one of the many bizarre decisions from the late years of the Bill Belichick era. Meyers had 71 catches for 807 yards and eight touchdowns in 2023, more than tripling Smith-Schuster’s production.

Smith-Schuster quickly earned the “bust” label in New England. A Sporting News headline wondered, “What happened to JuJu Smith-Schuster? How Steelers sendoff is now Patriots free agency bust,” and the Pittsburgh site, Steeler Nation, wrote, “The Patriots’ experiment with Smith-Schuster has been a bust.”

Patriots to Have Competition at WR

The good news for Smith-Schuster is that he is declaring himself healthy here at the peak of the offseason.

“I feel great, honestly. I feel great. I’ve never felt better. I’m just excited to finally be out here around this time and participating,” he said.

But the bad news is that the Patriots clearly are not counting on him to be a reliable presence in the wide-receiver room, and there has been speculation he could be cut when the team decides its 53-man roster. The Patriots brought back Kendrick Bourne in free agency and added K.J. Osborn.

They then went out and drafted Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker. With Pop Douglas’ spot on the roster set, there are five receivers with secure positions on the team. The message from the draft is clear—incumbent receivers Smith-Schuster and former second-round pick Tyquan Thornton are not safe.

At least one is likely gone, if not both.





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