JuJu Smith-Schuster: I joined Patriots because of Bill Belichick
JuJu Smith-Schuster, one of the top free-agent wide receivers on the NFL open market this offseason, signed a three-year deal with the New England Patriots worth a maximum $33 million.
Why did the 26-year-old Smith-Schuster choose New England?
In a Tuesday appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand, Smith-Schuster said that head coach Bill Belichick – who has won six Super Bowls at the helm in Foxborough – was a pivotal reason for him signing with the Patriots.
“To be honest, it was [Bill] Belichick, man,” Smith-Schuster said about what drew him to New England. “Just the want and the need. And, you know, the position that I can fill there really, really caught my attention. And I felt that like that was the [biggest] thing, feeling wanted in a place where I’ve played against a head coach I have a lot of respect for. And I just think that that goes a long way.”
Smith-Schuster comes to the Patriots after winning Super Bowl LVII with the Kansas City Chiefs. In said game, Smith-Schuster reeled in seven catches. He logged 78 receptions for 933 yards – which led Kansas City wide receivers – and three touchdowns in the regular season.
He spent the first five seasons of his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, averaging 77 receptions for 931.5 yards and 6.5 touchdowns per season from 2017-2020 (Smith-Schuster’s 2021 campaign ended after five games due to a shoulder injury).
Smith-Schuster joins a Patriots’ offense that slumped across the board last season. They averaged 208.0 passing yards (20th in NFL), 106.6 rushing yards (24th), 314.6 total yards (26th) and 21.4 points (17th) per game. All the while, quarterback Mac Jones had an underwhelming second season. Across 14 games, Jones totaled 2,997 passing yards, 14 passing touchdowns, 11 interceptions and an 84.8 passer rating, completing 65.2 percent of his passes.
Furthermore, Jakobi Meyers, New England’s No. 1 wideout last season, signed a three-year, $33 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders last week.
The Patriots also signed former Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki to a one-year deal, which comes after they traded tight end Jonnu Smith to the Atlanta Falcons. Gesicki averaged 46.2 receptions for 523.4 yards and 3.6 touchdowns per season across his five years with the Dolphins.
The Patriots went 8-9 last season, missing the playoffs and finishing with a losing record for the second time in three years.
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