Former USC football star JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the top wide receiver free agents in the NFL for 2021.
In four years with the Steelers, Smith-Schuster caught 308 passes for 3,726 yards and 26 touchdowns. There were ups and downs like a Pro Bowl campaign in 2018 and a slump in 2019 tied to WR room changes and quarterback woes.
Now Smith-Schuster needs to decide where he'll go next with finances and fit as factors.
Where JuJu Smith-Schuster shouldn't go
Let's get this out of the way now. JuJu, say no to the Colts and Carson Wentz. His reputation in Philadelphia was not good, and we saw what happened to Nelson Agholor there.
The Raiders have been bandied around as a team interested in signing Smith-Schuster. Las Vegas would be an acceptable destination but a limiting one. The Raiders don't fit one of his stated criteria for a new team: They're not a Super Bowl contender. Aim for the stars, not the lights of the strip.
The Patriots fit the same criteria. They're a stable enough franchise, but one in a rebuilding mode.
Back with Pittsburgh
Smith-Schuster himself said he wants to retire with the Steelers. That may not happen given the financial constraints, but it's what he desires. His belief in building a legacy with one team is a noble one. Who would root against that outcome?
Meant to be in Green Bay
Every year a USC wide receiver is in the draft pool, the possibility of giving Aaron Rodgers a shiny new weapon comes up. Now it's a free agency talking point.
Seriously though, Smith-Schuster would be an outstanding addition to the Packers' receiving corps. He'd be the perfect compliment to Davante Adams. While Adams stretches the field vertically, Smith-Schuster would provide a dangerous underneath receiving target.
Buy in with Baltimore
The Ravens have an excellent ground attack, but they could take their offense to the next level by giving Lamar Jackson a true playmaker at wide receiver.
Now, there's some bad blood between Smith-Schuster and Baltimore. The rivalry between the Ravens and Steelers transcends the wide receiver and both sides could quickly get over it.
Go title chasing with Kansas City
Smith-Schuster ending up with Kansas City is a bit of a pipedream. In the words of that kid from Angels in the Outfield, "It could happen."
Basically, if Smith-Schuster wants to win a title, the Chiefs are his best bet. KC has Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill dominating the receiving corps, but the other wide receiver options aren't outstanding. Smith-Schuster could be a third-option to really make the passing offense unstoppable.
Affording him is another conversation.
Take a chance in New York
Yes, New York would be an ideal landing spot for Smith-Schuster, but with a huge caveat: Sam Darnold.
If the Jets decide to stick with Darnold and new head coach Robert Saleh whips the franchise into shape and new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur installs an offense designed to get the best out of the quarterback, it could work out rather well.
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Darnold and Smith-Schuster were outstanding together at USC. Chemistry would be instantaneous. Trust would be built in. He's twice the receiver Darnold has had to throw to since getting to the NFL.
Is it a gamble to trust the Jets not to screw over both former Trojans in the end? Absolutely. It's still an interesting scenario to consider.