2021 Offseason Questions: Why Is WR Market Slow To Develop?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Why is the wide receiver market seemingly off to a slow start in comparison to other positions?

Although the new league year doesn’t actually officially begin until tomorrow evening, that hasn’t stopped players and teams from all but cementing their alliances days in advance—frankly, even well before the ‘legal tampering period’ was introduced, which essentially made it okay for teams to do what they were already doing.

This year has been no different, and yesterday saw a flurry of activity, particularly out of New England, who had a cache of unused salary cap space from last season stemming from givebacks from all of the players that they had opt out of the season. A nice little bonus for ol’ Bill, to be sure.

One market that doesn’t seem to have really taken off from the word go is the wide receiver group, outside of a couple of bigger names getting the franchise tag in advance. The Patriots signed Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, while the Jets added Corey Davis, but outside of that, there really haven’t been any other substantial contracts agreed to at this most important position.

That doesn’t really mean much in the end, because nothing is even official until 4PM tomorrow either way, but it is curious, and somewhat relevant to the Steelers, given that the market involves arguably their biggest name on the market in JuJu Smith-Schuster, who reportedly informed teammates he would not be returning in 2021—an indication the Steelers have more or less let him know that’s not going to happen.

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