Heading into free agency the chances that the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to keep top wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster seemed small. Smith-Schuster entered the league as one of the youngest players in the league and came in and produced in a big way.
The Steelers did not have very much cap space this offseason and due to Covid-19, the NFL salary cap was much lower than what was expected before the NFL’s losses in revenue.
Smith-Schuster, the former second-round pick of the Steelers coming out of USC hit the open market in free agency but decided to stay in Pittsburgh agreeing to a one-year $8 million contract instead of taking more money elsewhere.
Before free agency, it appeared that some of the top receivers in the league were all aiming for long-term big-money contracts, but it appeared that the wide receiver market was not as expected.
Without a doubt, Smith-Schuster took a major pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh for the 2021 season and I do not expect him to take a short-term contract or less money next go around.
Before free agency began Smith-Schuster tweeted “No matter what happens this week, if I’m back or if I’m somewhere else, just know that I will never see Pittsburgh as just 4 yrs of my life, but a part of who I am. I’ll always carry that tough, blue-collar spirit for the rest of my life. I LOVE YOU PITTSBURGH.”
This made it seem that it could be rather unlikely he returned. A few days later he returned to Twitter tweeting, “This is my home, they’re gonna need a wrecking ball to take me outta here! PITTSBURGH I LOVE YOU, LET’S GO!!!!!”
Steelers Offense Heading into 2021
The re-signing of JuJu Smith-Schuster is huge for the Steeler’s offense. Throughout this four-year career, Smith-Schuster has caught 308 passes for 3,726 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is returning to the team as well. The return of Smith-Schuster gives the Steelers at least one more year of the duo between Smith-Schuster and fellow receiver Chase Claypool.
Claypool a year ago was a draft pick out of Notre Dame who had a solid rookie season compiling 62 catches for 873 yards and nine touchdowns.
The wide receiver remains a strength for the Steelers offense with the re-signing of Smith-Schuster, but with running back James Conner a free agent Pittsburgh will need to address the running back position in either free agency or the draft if Conner pursues an opportunity elsewhere.
Strong Rookie Wide Reciever Class Impact on Market
The 2021 wide receiver draft class is loaded with talent this year and that is a major reason why this year’s free-agent wide receivers are struggling to find the money some other players are getting.
With names like DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle out of Alabama and Ja’Marr Chase from LSU to name a few this wide receiver class has major potential. A rookie contract is much less than what free agents cost when they hit the open market.
JuJu Denys the Chiefs
When looking at other suitors there are reports that Smith-Schuster declined an offer from the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are coming off two straight Super Bowl appearances and having superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes alongside wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce that offense would have been insane, to say the least.
Other Wide Receiver Contracts
Free agency has moved rather slowly for wide receivers, but some of the receivers that have signed with new teams in free agency include Kenny Golladay, Will Fuller, Corey Davis, and Curtis Samuel. Golladay signed the largest deal so far joining the Giants on a four year $72 million deal, Fuller signed a one year $10 deal with the Dolphins, Davis signed a three year $37.5 million deal with the Jets and Samuel heads to Washington on a three year $34.5 million deal.
Heading into free agency it appeared that Smith-Schuster would be getting a deal in the range of Golladay, but way more than players like Davis.