Updated: Mar 17
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
As of right now, JuJu Smith-Schuster hasn't signed a new contract with a team. Free agency doesn't officially start until tomorrow at 4 p.m. EST, but legal tampering started on Monday. Around the league, massive deals have been agreed to, but not a lot of money has been going to wide receivers, however.
Dianna Russini of ESPN reported today that she spoke with a free-agent wide receiver who told her "the wide receiver market is really bad right now."
Nelson Agholor got $11 million per year (incentives can push to $13 million) with the Patriots and Corey Davis got $12.5 million with the Jets. Kenny Golladay, Will Fuller, Curtis Samuel, T.Y. Hilton, along with Smith-Schuster have yet to reach an agreement with a team though. Golladay should be paid the most among this year's free-agent wide receivers.
So, you have to wonder will Smith-Schuster reach the $16.1 million per year market value that Spotrac listed? Maybe the negotiations are taking longer than at other positions, or perhaps other teams don't want to pay Smith-Schuster as much as he thinks he's worth.
Teams might also be reluctant to sign a receiver, as you can get a slew of them in the draft at a much cheaper rate. Golladay didn't even get franchised tag by the Lions when they had the cap space to do it.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network has mentioned it on a couple of occasions, but 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.
Rapoport didn't mention a team that Smith-Schuster would sign a one-year deal with in his interview with Rich Eisen, but you would have to imagine it would be the Steelers. 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 today, which saved the team $4 million in cap space. As of right now, the Steelers have around $5 million in cap space.
If the Steelers did some maneuvering with the cap, they could sign Smith-Schuster on a one-year deal worth 10 to $12 million. This is all speculation, however. Smith-Schuster could be working on an extensive deal right now. But if the market is dried up, why not come back to Pittsburgh for a one-year prove-it deal and bet on yourself to make even more money when the cap rises in 2022?