The Pittsburgh Steelers have not yet lost wide receiver juju smith-Schuster to free agency and it sounds like they would still like to be able to retain him it all possible. While smith-Schuster has recently been giving a lot of signals on social media that he’ll potentially leave via free agency, which begins less than a week from now, Ian Rapoport of the NFL network reporter Thursday that it’s still not a given that the former USC wide receiver won’t ultimately re-sign with the team that drafted him in 2017.
“It is still possible that JuJu Smith Schuster ends up in Pittsburgh,” Rapoport said Thursday. “I know it’s something that the organization would like to happen. They are trying to work on it. The problem is he’s a free agent and when you hit free agency, and of course they couldn’t franchise tag him just because of cap room and where they are, the Roethlisberger deal helped, but still not enough cap room, when you hit free agency, you could go anywhere.
“So, JuJu Smith Schuster at, or the top of the free agent receiver market, he’s going to really get paid. Now it’s hard to imagine that any of these guys reaches the heights of say where maybe the receiver franchise tag is going to be, but this is a guy who’s going to make a lot of money. I mean, the real question for me is, because he’s been a little up and down the last couple of years, does he try for a one-year deal to give himself an opportunity to maximize after? Or does he take a multi-year somewhere and just say, all right, this is where I am?”
So, that’s the latest. Obviously, the biggest issue the Steelers have right now is making a contract with Smith-Schuster work when it comes to overall structure and thus his 2021 cap charge. This obviously assumes they really want to retain him and retain at a number between $16 and $17.5 million.
A first-year cap charge for Smith-Schuster can potentially be between $5 and $6.5 million on a fair market deal. That said, a $5 million charge for 2021 might as well be a $50 million charge based on the Steelers current salary cap situation. They still could make a deal for Smith-Schuster work if they really want to, however, and even at $17 million per year.
The Steelers won’t be able to afford a one-or two-year contract for Smith-Schuster so that’s out of the question. There are still a few days left for the Steelers to get a deal done with Smith-Schuster and if they are legitimately attempting to do as Rapoport’s Thursday report hinted is the case, maybe one will actually get done before 4:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday. Stay tuned.