Did the Kansas City Chiefs get their missing piece on offense in signing Juju Smith-Schuster?
The Kansas City Chiefs made their second splash of the offseason on Friday (the first being Justin Reid), signing former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster to a one year deal worth $10.75 million.
Smith-Schuster was a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, lauded for his reliable hands, deep threat capabilities, and versatility to work in the slot and on the perimeter. He had an impressive rookie season, catching 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. The 2018 season was his big year, as he caught 111 passes for 1,426 yards and another seven scores. As the room got deeper in Pittsburgh and Antonio Brown went elsewhere, Smith-Schuster’s big plays declined and the numbers went down. He opted to return to Pittsburgh in 2021, but a shoulder injury limited his availability to just five games, including the postseason.
Smith-Schuster is still just 25 years young, and offers plenty in the passing game, especially as a reliable chain-mover in the slot. So is his addition one that really completes the Chiefs offense?
Right now, the Chiefs have two elite players in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Hill is of course the speed threat that can score at any time, and is the guy whose speed offers spacing. Kelce worked as a “block and release underneath” guy a lot of last year to combat the two-high looks, and has always done work in the middle of the field and thrived post-catch.
Mecole Hardman is the other speed threat on the roster, and he acts more as the decoy now to open deep digs and other routes for Hill to capitalize. But, Hardman is dangerous with the ball in his hands as well.
Still, drops have plagued the Chiefs at times, especially in key spots. In an arms race growing in the AFC by the day, getting more playmakers in a Chiefs uniform is important. Juju Smith-Schuster has the reliability as a pass catcher, and can be the slot operator alongside Kelce. He can catch underneath passes on 15-play marathon drives, get up the field quickly, and break a tackle or two en route to first downs and chunk plays.
So, in a way, Smith-Schuster is a missing piece of sorts for the Chiefs. He gives them another reliable target to work with Kelce over the middle of the field, and another young player who is still oozing with talent. It doesn’t mean that the Chiefs should be done looking for more weapons for the offense, but Smith-Schuster certainly alleviates the need.