Ultimately, Smith-Schuster Chose Loyalty Over Money In First Free Agency Opportunity

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ben Roethlisberger

Has the Friday morning news concerning Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-0Schuster finally sunk in? It’s true, he’s coming back to Pittsburgh for the 2021 season and for $8 million at that. The only thing we don’t know right now is if this is really a deal that includes voidable years. It would make sense if that’s the case because the Steelers still can’t afford an $8 million cap charge in 2021 right now. They are, however, attempting to move cornerback Steven Nelson as of Friday morning.

Smith-Schuster, as he has said all offseason, really wanted to stay with the Steelers this offseason and he showed just how bas he wanted to remain in Pittsburgh in his decision to turn down more lucrative deals from other teams.

“Yeah, I told you about 20 minutes ago, it was Ravens versus Steelers,” Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network said about Smith-Schuster re-signing with the Steelers. “At that point, I did not know the Chiefs were also in the mix. Hard to imagine better teams vying for one of the top free agent receivers. And the offers were legit, $13 million offer from the Baltimore Ravens with incentive. Nearly the same amount of interest from the Kansas City Chiefs. And in the end, JuJu Smith Schuster stays with the Pittsburgh Steelers on a one year, $8 million deal.

“So, when people say it’s not about the money, a lot of times you sort of roll your eyes, it’s always about the money, right? JuJu took less money to stay home in Pittsburgh. And we know they have cap issues. We also know they have some unfinished business to do there, and it’s clear he still considers the Steelers his home. He wants to play with Ben Roethlisberger. He wants to try to go win a title there, and now he hopes to do it. He is signing back in Pittsburgh.”

It’s rare that you see players turn down more money in free agency and especially young players coming off their rookie contract and attempting to cash in for the first time. The fact that Smith-Schuster took less money to stay in Pittsburgh speaks volumes about him.

Will this move pay off for Smith-Schuster in the long run? We’ll see. Unless Smith-Schuster has a no tag clause in 2022, which I do not see why he would, that option becomes in play a year from now if he earns it in 2021 and if the Steelers can’t get him extended prior to 2022 new league year.

Even if Smith-Schuster does become an unrestricted free agent in 2022 and does not receive the franchise tag, there’s a good chance the Steelers can sign him back to a longer deal and at more money per year as the team’s cap woes that they had this offseason should be gone by then.

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