JuJu Smith-Schuster explains what attracted him to Patriots in FA


New England isn't exactly a premier free-agent destination these days. Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson even admitted to our Phil Perry that he wouldn't be excited to join the Patriots after their 8-9 campaign in 2022.

But that didn't stop one of the top free-agent wide receivers on the market from signing a three-year contract with New England worth $ 33 million. So, what motivated JuJu Smith-Schuster to leave Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and come to Foxboro?

In an interview Tuesday with 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand," Smith-Schuster admitted head coach Bill Belichick was a major draw.

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"To be honest, it was Belichick, man," Smith-Schuster said. "Just the want and the need and the position that I can fill there really caught my attention, and I felt that like that was the (biggest) thing: feeling wanted in a place where I played against a head coach who have a lot of respect for. And I just think that goes a long way."

Smith-Schuster faced Belichick's Patriots a total of three times over five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers before joining the Chiefs in 2022. During that time, he gained plenty of respect for Pittsburgh's AFC rival and its head coach, who led the Patriots to Super Bowl appearances in each of Smith-Schuster's first two NFL seasons.

"The tradition was always there. I've always had respect for the Patriots," Smith-Schuster said, adding that Belichick and new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien appear to have big plans for him in New New England.

"(They're) giving me the opportunity to (play) inside (or) outside. I think what Bill does bring to the table is being able to dominate on the offensive game plan, and me coming in and filling those roles, obviously they see potential in what I can do."

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is no Mahomes or Ben Roethlisberger, so it's hard to envision Smith-Schuster replicating his 2022 production (78 receptions, 933 yards) in the Patriots' offense. Still, Smith-Schuster says he's a big fan of Jones' work ethic and commitment to football.

"That dude loves, breathes New England. He's the definition of a Patriot," Smith-Schuster said of Jones. "Even in my short time, like my 24 hours to be in New England, he was there constantly working out with the guys, just getting after it, getting it in the books.

"He was a rookie Pro Bowler, so the dude has a lot of potential. I can't wait to get right with him."

With Jakobi Meyers off to Las Vegas, Smith-Schuster is the clear No. 1 receiver in New England ahead of DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne and Tyquan Thornton. While some Patriots reportedly weren't pleased about Meyers' exit, Smith-Schuster seems eager to prove his value in Foxboro and work with Jones to revamp the Patriots' offense.

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