Former Pro Bowler Linked to Giants as Future No. 1 WR, Per Expert

JuJu Smith-Schuster floated as Giants free agency fit

Getty JuJu Smith-Schuster #19 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up before the game against the Buffalo Bills.

Whether you want to accept it or not, the New York Giants have their quarterback. Both GM Dave Gettleman and head coach Joe Judge regurgitated this exact notion to reporters earlier this week.

Now that they have their man under center, it’s time to supply him with some much-needed offensive weapons — namely at wideout. Impending free agents such as Kenny Golladay, Corey Davis and Curtis Samuel have been the players most readily associated with the Giants ahead of the new league year’s opening. However, NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund has a different pass-catcher in mind. 

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JuJu Smith-Schuster, Future WR1 for the Giants?

Using an analytics-based perspective to best fit top 2021 NFL free agents to the teams where they would have the greatest impact, Frelund believes JuJu Smith-Schuster should be headed to New York — projecting he could add 1.11 wins to the team’s win total. 

“I really wanted to list two teams here, just to show the impact that a slot receiver can have, especially in the red zone. As for Smith-Schuster’s fit with the Giants, eight of his nine touchdowns in 2020 came from the slot (tied for the most, with Travis Kelce, per NGS),” Frelund notes. “New York QBs had a passer rating when targeting the slot of just 82.3 last season, second-lowest in the NFL. On a roster that also boasts a returning Saquon Barkley, Smith-Schuster could easily fulfill the role of a No. 1 WR.”


JuJu Not Expected to Return to Steelers

Both he and the team have made that abundantly clear, even if they’ve yet to formally announce such a move.

Sports Illustrated recently put out an Instagram poll asking if the Smith-Schuster would stay in Pittsburgh. By the look of it, the 24-year-old clearly appears ready to test the free agency market, voting “that’s a negative” on the poll.

Adding to the likely divorce, the Steelers’ own official team website hinted at the wideout not returning to Pittsburgh in 2021.

“Smith-Schuster is set to become an unrestricted free agent on March 17, and despite his pronouncements on social media that he wants to continue his career with the Steelers, he’s unlikely to want to accept what the cap-strapped Steelers would be able to pay him on a new contract,” Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola wrote.

The USC product did lead all Steelers receivers in both receptions (97) and touchdowns (9) this past season. Yet at the same time, the once-feared big-play threat was seemingly deligated to a possession role in Pittsburgh’s system.

Since ranking fifth in the NFL with 1,426 receiving yards in 2018, Smith-Schuster has been on a steady decline in terms of explosive plays. None more so than in 2020, when he averaged just 8.6 yards per reception, ranking 126th in the NFL.

With Diontae Johnson, the NFL’s fifth-most targeted receiver (144), under contract through 2022, and budding star Chase Claypool entering just his second season, the likelihood that the cap-stricken Steelers retain their once No. 1 wideout appears bleak.

Still, at just 24 years old and only two seasons removed from a 111 reception, Pro Bowl campaign, Smith-Schuster could prove to be a bargain signing this offseason.

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