Updated: Feb 10
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN released his top 50 free agents of the 2021 offseason today and he had a couple of Steelers on his list. Fowler has the Jets as the best fit for Smith-Schuster, which has been mentioned by other outlets as well. The Jets have the cap space and are desperate for a top-tier wide receiver. In addition, New York City is the largest market in the United States and Smith-Schuster could expand his brand there.
Fowler has Smith-Schuster as his 25th ranked free agent this offseason and lists Will Fuller V as another wide receiver that the Jets could target in free agency, along with Zach Pascal. Smith-Schuster also played with Sam Darnold at USC, so when you connect the dots, the Jets seem like a place that Smith-Schuster could land. Darnold's future with the Jets is uncertain, however.
Le'Veon Bell cashed in with the Jets in free agency in 2019 and it ended up being a disaster, as he really never saw eye to eye with head coach Adam Gase and the Jets released him in October of the 2020 season. Robert Saleh is now the Jets head coach and is trying to build a new culture, so Smith-Schuster might not experience the same issues as his former teammate did in Bell.
Fowler as Bud Dupree ranked as his seventh-best free agent this offseason and has the Titans as the best fit. Dupree has really come on as an elite pass rusher in the past two seasons and would certainly be a fit for the Titans, as they are in a need of a pass rusher after they recorded just 19 sacks in 2020, which was the third-fewest in the league. Fowler mentions that the Titans could get a slight discount by signing Dupree, who suffered an ACL in Week 12 against the Ravens and might not be ready for the start of the 2021 season. The Steelers would like to bring Dupree back and pair him as a duo with Watt, but they are currently projected to be around $30 million over the salary cap and probably won't be able to offer Dupree a new contract.
Fowler has Alejandro Villanueva as his 21st ranked free agent this offseason and sees the Chargers as the best fit. Fowler mentions that the Chargers have a major need at left tackle with Sam Tevi heading toward free agency. Villanueva would also be reunited with former Steelers' offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett, who is now the Chargers' assistant offensive line coach. The Steelers could try to bring back Villanueva, but he'll be 33 in September and they are looking to get younger on the offensive line. Plus, with not having much cap space trying to overspend for Villanueva wouldn't be ideal.