JuJu Smith-Schuster Rumors: Latest Buzz and Prediction for Steelers Free AgentMarch 16, 2021
The early stages of the NFL free-agent frenzy have begun. The "legal tampering" window opened at 12 noon on Monday, and teams moved quickly to land verbal commitments from some of the top players. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was not one of those players.
With Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson II both receiving the franchise tag, Smith-Schuster was expected to be one of the most coveted pass-catchers on the market. He had a 1,426-yard season in 2018 and caught nine touchdowns this past season.
However, just because the 24-year-old hasn't agreed to a deal yet, it doesn't mean he won't still be a hot commodity. He should land a new deal in the coming days, but it likely won't be with the Steelers.
According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would like to have Smith-Schuster back. However, the wideout has privately told teammates he probably won't be back.
"The Steelers wanted him back. Ben Roethlisberger definitely wanted him back," Garafolo said on NFL Network. "...He is also telling teammates, I can tell you, that he is likely to head elsewhere for the next portion of his career. So, it doesn't look like JuJu Smith-Schuster will be back in Pittsburgh."
This could change, of course, if a market doesn't develop for the USC product soon. However, that doesn't feel likely. The Las Vegas Raiders, for example, have been interested in the one-time Pro Bowler since roughly the start of the offseason, according to ESPN's John Clayton:
Smith-Schuster has also been linked to the New York Jets. According to ESPN's Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler, New York is expected to be heavy on players in the receiver market this offseason.
"We expect the Jets to explore signing receiver help, and they've evaluated Will Fuller, Smith-Schuster and Kendrick Bourne, a favorite of new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur from their time in San Francisco together," Graziano and Fowler wrote.
Of course, the Jets may not be looking to add another high-profile—and likely high-priced—receiver in early free agency. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, they have agreed to a three-year, $37.5 million deal with former Tennessee Titans wideout Corey Davis.
Las Vegas could still be a destination, though, as it has $22.5 million in cap space and presumably, some lingering interest in the wideout. Cap-rich teams like the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers could also go after Smith-Schuster, but our guess is that he lands with the Raiders sooner rather than later.