The JuJu Smith-Schuster sweepstakes are heating up after a Thursday morning report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport shared that the New York Jets are “having conversations” with the young, Pro Bowl wide receiver.
The AFC East organization had been loosely connected to the 24-year-old throughout the offseason. However, the Jets recently signed Corey Davis, appearing to nab a No. 1 wide receiver to join a cast of pass-catchers expected to return in 2021. New York still boasts the most cap space in the NFL and could pursue Smith-Schuster with ease.
But, the Jets aren’t the only ones in the running to sign the 2018 Pro Bowler. According to Mike Garafolo, the Pittsburgh Steelers remain engaged in negotiations with Smith-Schuster and are still potentially interested in retaining one of their top wide receivers.
“While @RapSheet says the #Jets have conversations with JuJu Smith-Schuster, the #Steelers haven’t closed the door on a return and have remain engaged in the situation the last few days. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion…” Garafolo wrote on Thursday.
While @RapSheet says the #Jets have conversations with JuJu Smith-Schuster, the #Steelers haven't closed the door on a return and have remain engaged in the situation the last few days. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion…
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 18, 2021
Smith-Schuster has thrived in Pittsburgh during his first four seasons in the league, so a reunion makes sense. However, since that 2018 breakout campaign, the former USC wideout has regressed.
Smith-Schuster bounced back from 2019 to play in all 16 games last year, hauling in 97 receptions. His yards per catch (8.6) took a significant hit, but he still racked up 831 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns.
Given the rise of Diontae Johnson and 2020 rookie Chase Claypool, Smith-Schuster probably wouldn’t be able to return to his 2018 form. If he went to the Jets, he’d be a featured part of the offense, alongside his former quarterback in college, Sam Darnold.
It’s been a fairly difficult market for wide receiver this offseason, so money will also play a major role in Smith-Schuster’s final decision.
As Garafolo said, it’s shaping up to be an exciting conclusion for the 24-year-old’s signing.