Should Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster become an unrestricted free agent on March 17, there will be plenty of other teams vying for his services and likely around a value of $17 million per year. If the Steelers are unable to re-sign Smith-Schuster prior to March 17, the only other option the team would have that would slow or totally prevent his exodus from Pittsburgh would require the franchise tag being placed on the former second-round draft pick out of USC. For some reason, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports doesn’t think the franchise tag option is totally out of the picture as an option for the Steelers in the next four weeks.
“I’m throwing a dart here, but was hearing that a second tag for Bud Dupree, before he got hurt, was not out of the question for them despite their serious tag issues,” La Canfora wrote in his latest post for CBS Sports. “Redoing Ben Roethlisberger’s deal and cutting a few guys would allow them to carry JuJu into the league year as a means to dealing him for more than the third-round comp pick they might get in 2022. With a bunch of WRs possibly getting the tag, will they control the asset and deal him to a receiver-needy team with money to burn?”
What? That is one of the silliest things I have read in a long, long time from a major media member and I see a lot of such things almost daily.
For starters, the estimated franchise tag amount for wide receivers this offseason is $16.43 million, per Over the Cap. Using the franchise tag on a player means that’s their salary cap charge as well unless an extension of some sort can be worked out before the July deadline. So, unless the Steelers absolutely knew they could trade Smith-Schuster upon giving him the franchise tag, there’s no way they would use it on him and especially with the team being so cap-strapped this offseason. There’s no way they can carve out an extra $16 million or so in salary cap space in four weeks just to hold on to Smith-Schuster so that they might be able to trade him for more than a third-round selection. It’s just not plausible.
If the Steelers want Smith-Schuster on their roster past March 17, the only realistic way for that to happen is to sign him to a lucrative contract before the start of the new league year and one that would have a 2021 cap charge as low as possible. While the Steelers quite obviously would like to retain Smith-Schuster if possible, what the league’s salary cap number is ultimately set at in the next few weeks will play a big part in whether or not they can make such a re-signing happen.
Franchise tag Smith-Schuster? Yeah, that’s simply crazy talk by La Canfora.