It’s far from a secret that the Las Vegas Raiders need to improve on defense. The team hasn’t fielded a great defense in over a decade and that needs to change if they hope to win a Super Bowl anytime soon. While it’s obvious that the team should use 90% of their cap space and draft picks on defensive players this offseason, it can’t be ruled out that Jon Gruden is going to spend big money on an offensive weapon.
A recent report came out that linked the Raiders to Pittsburgh Steelers free agent JuJu Smith-Schuster. They are apparently “very interested” in him as a player. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler added more context to what exactly the team likes about the wide receiver.
“I do think the Steelers will have productive talks with him, try to keep Smith-Schuster. Big Ben would love to have him back. But I know the Raiders like his game, his toughness,” Fowler said recently, via Bleacher Report. “They could add a new dimension there. Smith-Schuster can do a lot of different things on offense for Derek Carr and that attack. And the Jets I believe will look at him as well. Nelson Agholor, though, with the Raiders they really like him and could try to keep him.”
It’s easy to see why the Raiders would like Smith-Schuster. He’s only 24-years-old and has a lot of star power with younger fans. Also, Gruden wants to have an elite wide receiver corps and that hasn’t happened since he came back in 2018. Smith-Schuster was an elite receiver in 2018 but he hasn’t cracked 1,000 yards in the past two seasons. It’s hard to know how much of his success had to do with the fact that he lined up with Antonio Brown during his first two seasons.
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Smith-Schuster Could Demand Big Money
If the Raiders could get Smith-Schuster at $10 million a year, then it could be a good move. However, Spotrac believes he’s worth over $16 million a year. That is way more than the team should pay for a position that isn’t a big need.
Also, Smith-Schuster is a good player but he’s not elite. The upcoming free-agent class has elite wide receivers like Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson. If the Raiders are going to spend big, they might as well go after one of the superstars.
Re-Signing Agholor Is Better Move
Smith-Schuster is a good player but he’s not worth $16 million a year to the Raiders. They have way more pressing needs. That $16 million could be used to sign a star defensive lineman like Leonard Williams or Yannick Ngakoue.
If Las Vegas truly feels like it needs more talent at wide receiver, they should just figure out how to keep Agholor. He had 896 receiving yards in 2020 compared to Smith-Schuster’s 831. Agholor also averaged 18.7 yards per catch while the Steelers wide receiver averaged 8.6. The Raiders don’t really need a slot receiver, which is the role that Smith-Schuster mostly fills. Signing Agholor at $10 million a year would be a much better move than spending $16 million a year on a wide receiver who was arguably less productive in 2020.