Skip to main content

Chiefs’ JuJu Smith-Schuster Named One of ‘Best Bargains’ in NFL

Smith-Schuster's solid contract is a testament to the creativity of the Chiefs' front office.

The Kansas City Chiefs' financial decisions over the past few years were beginning to catch up with them this offseason, so general manager Brett Veach devised a plan.

The first step of his plan, at least at the wide receiver position, was to bring in JuJu Smith-Schuster after striking out on him the year prior. Next up: trade Tyreek Hill. Following those two major moves, Veach added additional talent via free agency (Marquez Valdes-Scantling) and the NFL Draft (Skyy Moore) to insulate the Chiefs' Hill-less position room. 

According to some, the signing of Smith-Schuster will prove to be one of the best of any team's past several months. 

Jan 16, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman (17) and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (right) embrace following the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports recently published a list of the best "bargain" NFL players at premium positions for the upcoming 2022 season. In addition to star quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Joe Burrow and even receivers like Justin Jefferson and DK Metcalf, Smith-Schuster's name was listed as well. Benjamin praised the raw base amount of the deal ($3.25 million), citing it as something that could prove quite valuable to Kansas City in due time: 

The former Steelers standout has been an afterthought in a frenetic WR market the last two years, and it's probably true he's more of a steady option than spectacular one. But man oh man could Kansas City get bang for its buck with the still-young target machine teaming up with Patrick Mahomes in Andy Reid's offense.

There's a lot more to Smith-Schuster's deal than appears on the surface, however. Back in March when the former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout signed with the Chiefs, Joshua Brisco of Arrowhead Report speculated that the contract's incentives could be of the "not likely to be earned" (NLTBE) variety. Those incentives are based on the prior season's production and — in Smith-Schuster's case — the numbers weren't pretty. 

As such, Veach and company included five "likely to be earned" per-game active roster bonus incentives while also incorporating non-cumulative incentives for catches, yards, playing time, deep playoff victories and even making this season's Pro Bowl. Many of the stat-related mechanisms will escalate in payout with increased performance on the field. Not only did the Chiefs secure a relatively young player at a major position of need, but they did so while maintaining financial flexibility in both the short term and long term. 

Smith-Schuster's 2022 cap hit is a measly $2.89M, a figure that he may prove to be worth just a quarter or a third of the way through the season. His incentive-laden contract allows him to control most of what he'll max out at in terms of compensation and if the team-oriented playoff bonuses kick in, the Chiefs will gladly fork over that additional $1M ($500,000 each for AFC Championship Game win and Super Bowl win). The nature of the deal at its most basic point is a great one, regardless of whether he hits those incentive triggers throughout the year. As-is, the Smith-Schuster contract is a testament to the creativity of Veach and the rest of the Chiefs' front office — and it makes for a worthy listing among the best bargains in the league.