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The wide receiver market is really bad right now. The running back market is even worse. It's not surprising that running backs are not getting a ton of money, as they can easily be found in the draft, but it is quite alarming to see teams not giving out big deals to wide receivers.
Legal tampering started on Monday and the start of the new league year began yesterday at 4 p.m. EST. and receivers haven't been receiving huge deals. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network said yesterday that he expected things to heat up for the high-end receivers. That didn't occur, however. The biggest deal handed out for a receiver was Curtis Samuel signing a three-year, $34.5 million contract with Washington, which comes out to $11.5 million per year.
On the first two days of legal tampering, Nelson Agholor and Corey Davis got the largest deals for receivers. Agholor got $11 million per year (incentives can push to $13 million) with the Patriots and Davis got $12.5 million per year with the Jets.
A lot of teams probably think it's not worth it to pay a high price tag for a wide receiver, especially when they can just select a younger and cheaper talented receiver in the draft. And this year's draft class is loaded with special receivers. The salary cap going down almost $16 million from last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic also plays a big part.
Dianna Russini said yesterday that a general manager told her that a lot of the free-agent wide receivers are asking for double-digit money and not a lot of teams are biting, including his own.
Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller and T.Y. Hilton are the remaining high-end free-agent receivers who haven't signed with a team yet. Golladay should be paid the most among this year's free-agent wide receivers.
It doesn't appear that anyone is getting close to $16.1 million per year like Spotrac listed Smith-Schuster's market value as.
Golladay is expected to visit with the Giants soon to discuss a contract, according to Rapoport. Once a deal is finalized for Golladay, maybe that's when Smith-Schuster signs a deal. The market is way below what a lot of the free-agent receivers expected, and some might just bet on themself and sign a one-year prove-it deal.
According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, the Bengals have offered Golladay a one-year prove-it deal. If Golladay is being offered a one-year deal, what's this mean for Smith-Schuster and could he potentially sign a one-year deal with a team?
Rapoport has mentioned Smith-Schuster potentially signing a one-year deal on a couple of occasions. In an interview with Rich Eisen last week, Rapoport said he wouldn't be surprised if Smith-Schuster signed a one-year deal if he didn't get what he expected on the open market and come back next year when the cap increases significantly due to the new TV deals.
The Steelers can still restructure contracts with Stephon Tuitt and Chris Boswell, along with extending Steven Nelson and signing Joe Haden to a new deal to free up some cap space. They released Vince Williams as a cap casualty on Tuesday, which saved the team $4 million in cap space. As of right now, the Steelers have $3.6 million in cap space, according to Overthecap.com.
If the Steelers did some maneuvering with the cap, they could sign Smith-Schuster on a one-year deal worth 10 to $12 million. It would probably take cutting a vested veteran like David DeCastro or Joe Haden for it to happen, however. And the chances of that happening are really slim.
Smith-Schuster could sign a one-year deal with another team if the money is right, but I'm sure he would rather do it with the Steelers. Regardless, where ever he lands, he'll be making significantly less than $16.1 million per year as his market value suggested.
As mentioned above, the running back market is awful. Marlon Mack signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Colts yesterday. If Macks signed for $2 million, what does that mean for James Conner and former Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell? What will they receive?
It should be interesting to see how it unfolds in the next couple of days for Smith-Schuster and Conner. I think once Golladay reaches a deal, Smith-Schuster and the rest of the receivers will follow. It wouldn't be surprising if some of them agreed to one-year prove-it deals either given how bad the market is.