(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
JuJu Smith-Schuster market never materialized in free agency and ended up re-signing with the Steelers on a one-year, $8 million deal even though the Ravens and Chiefs offered more money on a one-year deal as well.
Many figured that Smith-Schuster didn't get around $16 million per year like he was projected to because of a depressed salary cap and teams not willing to shell out a bunch of money because they could just get a younger and cheaper wide receiver in the draft. However, Kenny Golladay got a big payday from the Giants with a four-year, $72 million deal, which amounts to $18 million per year.
So why didn't Smith-Schuster get paid like Golladay? After all, he has better stats in his career than the Giants' new No. 1 wide receiver. It appears that teams stayed away from Smith-Schuster because of knee concerns from the past two seasons, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.
“Multiple sources said the 24-year-old’s health will be something to watch after some knee concerns have persisted from the past two seasons," Fowler wrote. "In 2019, Smith-Schuster missed four games with a knee injury and concussion. He missed several practices last season with the knee injury designation, and sources say he’s received frequent treatment for knee-related issues, which makes them wonder about his long-term durability going forward.”
According to Fowler, Smith-Schuster’s agent Kim Miale said no concerns were raised by any team during free agency. That included the Steelers. Fowler also stated that Smith-Schuster has been training without restriction in Los Angeles this offseason.
Dejan Kovacevic of DKPittsburghSports also heard from a source that teams were reluctant to give Smith-Schuster a big contract because they were worried about his knee.
According to Kovacevic, the knee injury that had hampered Smith-Schuster throughout the season flared up in the later part of the schedule, causing him to miss practices and causing him to have that knee drained of fluid frequently to allow him to compete in games. Most often, that draining would occur on Fridays of game weeks.
In 2020, Smith-Schuster had a paltry 8.6 yards per reception, which ranked 126th in the league. Maybe that had to do with his reported knee issues or it had more to do with the fact that Randy Fichtner was orchestrating a dink-and-dunk offense. Regardless, Smith-Schuster needs to make more explosive plays like the two 97-yard touchdown receptions he had earlier in his career if he wants to cash in next offseason with the Steelers or another team.