NFL free agency is right around the corner. While some players will work out extensions with their current teams, most of them will become unrestricted free agents and hit the open market. One of the most prominent free agents at the wide receiver position is Kansas City Chiefs and former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. What are some possible landing spots for Smith-Schuster?
JuJu Smith-Schuster Free Agency Predictions
Every year, the free agent class has its strengths and weaknesses. The 2023 class is very weak at wide receiver but absolutely loaded at running back. That, combined with what is believed to be a good, but not great, rookie WR class, will make watching this unfold very interesting.
There are several teams clearly in need of wide receivers. Some teams could serve to upgrade their WR2 spot. Others just need someone who can make plays.
Once considered a future star wide receiver, Smith-Schuster has been unable to even get remotely close to replicating his stellar 2018 season.
In 2021, JuJu took a one-year deal to remain in Pittsburgh with the idea that he’d be able to secure a long-term contract in 2022. Then, in 2022, Smith-Schuster once again settled for a one-year deal. Now, he’s looking for that multi-year contract. Which teams might give it to him?
Perhaps the Packers Will Finally Sign a WR in JuJu Smith-Schuster
It was quite bold of the Green Bay Packers to trade away Davante Adams without doing anything to replace him. Christian Watson certainly showed promise as a rookie, but Aaron Rodgers was throwing to UDFA Allen Lazard, Day 3 rookie Romeo Doubs, and the ghost of Randall Cobb for much of the season.
At this point in his career, we know who Smith-Schuster is. He can’t be a team’s WR1, but in the right spot, he could be a reliable WR2.
Smith-Schuster does his best work from the slot. The Packers can roll with their sophomore WR duo on the outside and utilize JuJu in three-receiver sets. He could provide Rodgers (or possibly Jordan Love…but probably not) with a safety valve underneath.
The Packers have created enough salary cap space to afford a wide receiver. While one of the top WRs available in this free agent class, Smith-Schuster is unlikely to command much more annually than the $10 million he got from the Chiefs last year. The Packers could give him 2-3 years at $10-12 million a year.
Smith-Schuster Has Expressed a Willingness To Return to Kansas City
It should come as no shock that JuJu is open to returning to the team that got him a Super Bowl ring. After winning football’s ultimate crown last season, Smith-Schuster had nothing but positive things to say about the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes, in particular.
NFL Network’s Mike Giardi asked JuJu if he wanted to stay with the Chiefs. The wide receiver said, “Yeah, I want to come back. Of course, man. Look where I’m at? I want to come back to this.”
Despite battling injuries throughout the season, Smith-Schuster played in 16 games for the Chiefs, catching 78 of 101 targets for 933 yards and three touchdowns. He didn’t do much in the postseason until the Super Bowl but did catch seven passes for 53 yards en route to the Chiefs’ victory over the Eagles.
There also seems to be mutual interest. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the Chiefs will “attempt to re-sign receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.” So, it sounds like this has a good chance of happening as long as the money is right.
Given Kansas City’s WR situation, bringing Smith-Schuster back makes plenty of sense. The Chiefs certainly have the cap space to do it.
Smith-Schuster Could Join His Former Team’s Rival in the Ravens
This is undoubtedly the least likely of the three proposed landing spots for Smith-Schuster. JuJu had a chance to sign with Baltimore in 2021 before returning to Pittsburgh. Then, in 2022, there didn’t seem to be much mutual interest. Nevertheless, the Ravens have had a need at wide receiver since the inception of their franchise.
Even assuming a healthy Rashod Bateman this season, the Ravens don’t have a viable starting receiver behind him. They desperately need to upgrade on Demarcus Robinson, Devin Duvernay, and Sammy Watkins.
Smith-Schuster isn’t exactly what the Ravens need. Ideally, they need a bigger-bodied outside clasher. But most importantly, they need something better than what they have. JuJu won’t be expensive, and Baltimore has the cap space to do it.
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Market Value, Career Stats, and More
Smith-Schuster currently sits at No. 55 in our top 100 free agents. He’s the fourth-ranked free agent wide receiver, behind Odell Beckham Jr., Jakobi Meyers, and DJ Chark.
Last season, Smith-Schuster earned $10 million on a one-year contract with Kansas City. It was his second consecutive one-year deal following the expiration of his rookie contract.
Smith-Schuster is only 26 years old, but he is now five years removed from his 111-catch, 1,426-yard 2018 season. We now know that season was the exception and not something we should expect going forward.
Even so, Smith-Schuster is clearly an NFL-caliber starting receiver. He’s at least a really solid WR3, if not a good WR2. There are plenty of teams on which JuJu would be a clear upgrade as the No. 2 WR and others where he’d instantly be the best receiver on the team.
Smith-Schuster hoped to perform well enough to earn a lucrative multi-year deal. Instead, he proved he’s good enough to be worth signing, but not a true difference-maker that can help turn a team around.
How this plays out in free agency will be interesting to watch because we don’t know how highly he views himself. Does JuJu still believe he deserves a contract based on something close to his 2018 performance? Or does he understand the market’s perception of his ability based on the past two seasons?
Smith-Schuster couldn’t reach 1,000 yards playing with Patrick Mahomes on a depth chart devoid of any quality pass catchers beyond Travis Kelce. As a result, I would consider 900-950 yards his absolute ceiling.
If JuJU lands on a team with a weaker offense or a below-average quarterback, expectations regarding his performance should be lowered. Even if he ends up on a good offense, to a team with multiple offensive weapons, he could end up just being a role player.
Smith-Schuster is undoubtedly a top-five free agent wide receiver, but as you probably gathered, I’m not overly bullish on the impact he will have with whatever team ends up signing him.