Updated: Jun 9, 2021
(Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images)
JuJu Smith-Schuster was offered more money by both the Chiefs and Ravens this offseason, but out of loyalty to the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger, Smith-Schuster decided to re-sign with Pittsburgh on a one-year, $8 million deal that includes four voidable years. And in all reality, it was the best business decision for the 24-year-old wide receiver.
"Staying with my quarterback that I've been playing with for the last four years and the fact that he's coming back for one more year, and the fact that I can have that potential for a one-year deal, just [how the] organization set everything up for me. They pretty much know my body inside and out, on the field and off the field, how I am," Smith-Schuster said today after OTAs practice on why he re-signed with the Steelers via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.
"Don't get me wrong, Patrick Mahomes is a great quarterback and he will be for the next decade, but I think it's just a loyalty to my coaches, my receiver coach and to my quarterback."
It was a really dry market for wide receivers in free agency this year due to the salary cap going down almost $16 million because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, it was also a deep draft class for receivers, so teams were not willing to dish out money like they were for other positions. This left Smith-Schuster in a difficult position, as the type of money he was looking for was just simply not there.
"For me, a couple million -- I get for some people it's different -- but I'm looking at the bigger picture going into next year," Smith-Schuster said. "I already knew if I went to the Ravens, fans would destroy me. ... And then going to the Chiefs, obviously they have a great, great offense and all that. Being able to play with Tyreek [Hill] and Travis [Kelce] and all that."
While the Chiefs and Ravens were intriguing to Smith-Schuster, he knew deep down inside that running it back for at least one more year with an organization and quarterback that he's familiar with was his best option.
"But at the end of the day, I've got to do what's best for me, and that's staying home. Knowing my quarterback, knowing my OC, knowing my receiver coach, it just makes it easier on me this year going into next year, that next year's free agency will be a lot better," Smith-Schuster said.
The good news for Smith-Schuster is that the salary cap could be as high as $208.2 million in 2022, increased by almost $26 million from 2021's cap number of $182.5 million. And the Steelers are projected to have the second-most cap space in 2022 with $75.2 million in cap room, according to Overthecap.com.
"Everything that happened this year was different with the cap being low and everything," Smith-Schuster said. "Next year is obviously a year where the cap will be so much better, so much bigger and knowing that I'll be on the market again, knowing that every team that would want to offer something on the table to what my value is.
"At the end of the day, this year, I've got to go out there, ball out, do what I've got to do and put stuff on tape to make my value even better."