3 Patriots Vets on the Chopping Block After Youth Movement Comments

New England Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker (1) tries to avoid New York Giants cornerback
New England Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker (1) tries to avoid New York Giants cornerback / Kevin R. Wexler / USA TODAY NETWORK
2 of 3

2. JuJu Smith-Schuster

Admittedly, Smith-Schuster's age doesn't immediately jump off the page as someone that should be over the hill in their NFL career. Despite having seven NFL seasons under his belt, Smith-Schuster is still only 27 years old. Recent injuries, however, have slowed him down immensely on the field and his lack of explosiveness mirrored that of players in the twilight of their career.

The USC product was brought in by Bill Belichick last offseason to replace the reliable Jakobi Meyers, with whom Belichick had decided to play hardball with at the bargaining table. The Patriots inked Smith-Schuster to a three-year, $33 million contract with $16 million guaranteed, but he was a shell of his former self (and a shell of what the team had gotten out of Meyers). He ended the season with only 29 catches for 260 yards and one touchdown.

Battling through a lingering knee ailment, Smith-Schuster certainly looked like a player on the back nine of his career than the front nine in 2023. He ended the season on injured reserve and missed six games in total during his first season in New England.

Cutting Smith-Schuster prior to June 1 wouldn't be an advisable route for the Patriots. They would incur $12.3 million in dead money and actually lose $1 million in cap space. Meanwhile, cutting him after June 1 would bring that dead money amount down to $9.6 million in 2024 and $2.6 million in 2025, but it would open up $1 million in cap space. Any way that you slice it, Belichick didn't leave them in a desirable position.

The Patriots' preferred course of action would be to trade Smith-Schuster, assuming that they can salvage a return. Trading him prior to June 1 would free up $5.4 million in space, while waiting until after June 1 would provide New England with $8 million of additional cap space.

If they can find a trade partner, the Patriots should be eager to cut bait and move on from the one-year disaster that was the JuJu Smith-Schuster experiment.