Analyst Predicts JuJu Smith-Schuster Will Sign With Steelers’ Hated Rival

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Adam Glanzman/Getty Images Stephon Gilmore of the New England Patriots attempts to tackle JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2019.

Add another name to the list of NFL teams that could potentially serve as a landing spot for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who officially became an unrestricted free agent on February 18, 2022. On February 21, Argun Menon of Pro Football Focus (PFF) predicted that Smith-Schuster—No. 42 on PFF’s list of the Top 50 2022 Free Agents—will ink a one-year deal with the New England Patriots for the same money he signed for last year ($8 million).

“Smith-Schuster turned down a multi-year deal with the Chiefs last offseason then proceeded to get injured early in the 2021 season,” notes Menon, referring to the painful-looking Week 5 shoulder injury that sidelined the rising sixth-year receiver for the remainder of the regular season. “Thus, it’ll probably be tough for him to get a multi-year deal on the market for the value he wants.”

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JuJu Smith-Schuster Attracted at Least Four Contract Offers Last Offseason

But that doesn’t mean Smith-Schuster won’t have multiple suitors, which could include the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, all of whom pursued the USC product last offseason–still only 25 years old despite having completed five seasons in the league.

“Smith-Schuster can serve as a reliable receiver out of the slot for New England,” offers Menon, noting that the Patriots need to get second-year quarterback Mac Jones more weapons.

Never mind that Pittsburgh’s next quarterback—whether that’s Mason Rudolph, former Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, or a potential trade acquisition like Las Vegas Raiders quarterback David Carr—is going to need weapons of his own to complement No. 1 option Diontae Johnson and third-year receiver Chase Claypool.

And if Smith-Schuster can’t get more than a one-year deal for $8 million on the open market, one wonders if that increases the chances that he returns to Pittsburgh, especially if the Steelers can acquire an ”elite bridge” quarterback or a first-round worthy prospect like Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, the latter of whom has been compared to former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart.

On the other hand, Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network has reported that Smith-Schuster “hopes to join” one of the teams he rejected last offseason, that being the Chiefs, who employ All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Speaking to the media following Pittsburgh’s 42-21 Wild Card loss to Kansas City back in January, Smith-Schuster indicated that he planned to monitor Pittsburgh’s QB situation going forward, noting that the quarterback who is throwing him the ball is “very important” consideration.

Ex-Steelers CB Steven Nelson Predicted to Join the Falcons

Another name of note on PFF’s list of the Top 50 Free Agents is former Pittsburgh cornerback Steven Nelson, who signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles in the summer of 2021 after the Steelers terminated his contract four months earlier, less than an hour after he sent what he described as an “out of my character tweet.”

Menon projects that Nelson will ink a two-year, $14 million contract with Atlanta, as “the Falcons desperately need to get A.J. Terrell some help in the cornerback room, and signing Nelson to play the slot corner role in Dean Pees’ Cover-2 scheme would be a good start.”

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