Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster took an awful lot of humbling over the course of his final three years here. Of course, as a young man, he would naturally be expected to mature over that formative time in his life anyway, but it also came concurrent with a decline in his production for a myriad of reasons.
After making the Pro Bowl in 2018 as a second-year player and looking to be on a meteoric rise, his career never took off like it was supposed to. He barely managed to wriggle a one-year, $8 million contract from the Steelers to remain there in 2021, with outside offers not being significantly better and offering only incentives as superior perks.
This offseason was a little different considering he missed most of the year due to injury, but this time he accepted a deal from the Kansas City Chiefs. And he appears set to make the most of it. Earning just a one-year deal worth a base value of $3.25 million, it also included $7.5 million in incentives, and he is on track to earn the majority of that.
After catching 10 passes for 88 yards last night, Smith-Schuster is up to 44 receptions for 582 yards and two touchdowns in eight games, and he has increasingly become a key part of the Chiefs’ offense. In the past three games alone, he has 22 receptions for 323 yards and two touchdowns.
According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, he is currently on track to hit at least three incentives worth $4.5 million, tracking for at least 60 receptions, 900 receiving yards, and 65 percent of the team’s offensive playing time.
He is currently on pace for 94 receptions for 1237 receiving yards and is on pace to play over 800 snaps, closer to three-quarters than two-thirds of the total. And he is setting himself up to finally cash in during free agency if he continues on this path, perhaps re-signing with the Chiefs.
Looking back to a Mike Florio article, it notes that Smith-Schuster’s deal had cumulative $500,000 incentive thresholds for reception totals of 40, 50, and 65 (not 60, as Fowler wrote), maxing out at $1.5 million. Similarly for receiving yards at 500, 650, and 900. For playing time, a 45% share would equal $500,000, with 65 percent jumping up to $1.5 million.
The remaining $3 million in incentives in his contract includes $1 million for making the Pro Bowl and $2 million for various individual-team mixture marks. For example, for playing 50% of the snaps in a Chiefs win in the AFC Championship game, his top receptions and yardage thresholds would each increase by another $500,000. The same for logging 50% or more of the snaps in a Chiefs win in the Super Bowl.
Kansas City previously gave him an incentive raise heading into the regular season, doubling his per-game roster bonus from $30,000 per game to $60,000 per game. It does seem that he is finding himself a new home with Patrick Mahomes, and earning a better payday along the way to his third chance at free agency.