"Now let's talk."
That’s what JuJu Smith-Schuster wrote on Instagram after seeing his quarterback Ben Roehtlisberger restructure his contract to return with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The move will save the Steelers about $15 million in cap space, allowing them to enter free agency with about $8 million to work with. The problem is - he’s still out of their price range, and the Steelers don’t like to sign wide receivers to the franchise tag.
The franchise tag is one of two ways Smith-Schuster can be on this team at the start of next season. But the Steelers have never used a tag on a receiver in their franchise's history. Since 2000, Antonio Brown is really the only example we have of a Steelers wide receiver getting a lucrative contract off their rookie deal.
Even if Smith-Schuster is nowhere near the headache of an Antonio Brown, no one believes he’s in the same stratosphere as a talent.
That leaves option number two if Smith-Schuster honestly wants to be a Steeler for life - taking less than market value.
Smith-Schuster is projected to get $81 million over five years. Which makes sense because if you broke it down annually, it's essentially the same amount he would make on the franchise tag.
He might have led the team in receptions last season, but he will probably need to be satisfied with a deal around $10 million or less for the Steelers to even consider bringing him back.
With Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson proving last season they can be key cogs in a passing attack, it might be smarter for the Steelers to spend their money on other position groups on their roster, like former USC Trojan Zach Banner who is another Steelers free agent.
Wherever JuJu Smith-Schuster ends up, he will be bringing a wide array of Tik Tok dances to the locker room.
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