How JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Knee Injury Cost Him $1M Vs Bengals

For as much as he seemingly wanted to stay in Pittsburgh, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster knew that moving on with the Kansas City Chiefs is what he needed to do for his future. I think most would agree that he made the right call, and not just because they’re set to play in the Super Bowl.

Whether or not and how much he actually plays in the game, however, remains to be seen. He suffered a knee injury in the AFC Championship game, which proved rather costly. In fact, on paper, it cost him $1 million, according to Joel Corry.

You see, part of the contract that Smith-Schuster signed with the Chiefs was a series of incentives based on playing time and statistics and awards. Kansas City even added extra incentives just before the regular season as a reward for what he had done up to that point.

He had a $1 million incentive for playing at least 50% of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps in the conference championship game (having previously hit requisite regular-season incentives to qualify). He was unable to return, however, playing only 31 snaps, or 45%. So he didn’t earn the incentive or the $1 million.

I would like to make it very clear, however, that that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t get the $1 million, or at least a portion of it. Many teams, including the Steelers, and even the Patriots, do take care of their players when they come up against the wall for incentives in such situations.

The premise of the incentive in spirit was that Smith-Schuster would be a big enough part of Kansas City’s offense to command extensive playing time in a conference title game. He was that type of player; only a knee injury prevented it from being the case.

Maybe they won’t give him all $1 million of it, but I think it’s rather likely that the Chiefs will pay him at least a portion of that amount in the spirit of good faith—and future business. They would presumably like to re-sign him this offseason, though I’m sure he’ll be interested in getting another look at his market.

In his first season with the Chiefs, Smith-Schuster played 71 percent of their offensive snaps, catching 78 out of 101 targets for 933 yards and three touchdowns. How big a role he played in any given week varied based on the opponent, but he had a two-game stretch in the middle of the year in which he put up 237 yards and two touchdowns.

He only caught one single pass for seven yards on one target in the conference finals against the Cincinnati Bengals. It might be the last pass he catches all year depending on how that knee recovers in two weeks, but I can only imagine he’ll do everything he possibly can to be involved. You don’t make it to the Super Bowl every year—he never came close during his half a decade in Pittsburgh.

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