Just because we are seeing a vaccine being produced and delivered does mean we aren’t going to still be seeing the effects of COVID-19 in the NFL. As you may know next season there is a projected decline in the NFL salary cap for 2021. In 2019 the salary cap was $188.2M and has risen by at least $10M in seven straight years. Last season the salary cap was at $198.2M and was projected to increase to roughly $210M in 2021.
That was before an international pandemic broke out though. Now the NFL salary cap is actually projected to decrease to “just” $180M for 2021. This is going to make for some stressful times for NFL front offices that already had cap issues coming into the season. Teams like the Falcons, the Saints, and the Eagles are all going to have to do some major bending.
We aren’t here to talk about them though. This is about the contract situation with JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Pittsburgh Steelers. A team that is currently looking to be more than $19M over the salary cap, a lot of things will need to be shifted before 2021.
One possibility could be the fact that the Steelers might have to move on from their former 2nd round pick. The emergence of rookie wideout Chase Claypool only makes this case more sturdy. Pittsburgh has a deep wide receiver room with Diontae Johnson, Claypool and James Washington behind JuJu. Factor in their ability to draft (or use) wide receivers and it really does seem rather pointless to break the bank for a wide receiver.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is no doubt a talented receiver, and if were to leave Pittsburgh, would have no issue finding another team. At the top of the spending list you’ll find wide receiver hungry teams like the Football Team, Colts, or the entire AFC East. The Steelers won’t be able to match their offers without pulling major money moves in the off season. With that being said, could we see Pittsburgh have to part ways with another Pro Bowl wide receiver?
The Los Angeles Chargers would hope so. After hitting on their 6th overall pick from last year, Justin Herbert, the Chargers suddenly have a very bright future. The defense is stacked with a talented, but young core that I believe can be good enough to win championships very soon. Not to mention they will have the 13th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft as well.
Mike Williams will also be a free agent, but I personally think he is too similar to Keenan Allen. JuJu complements Allen more and lets this offense become more explosive. If you were to sign a second receiver to a hefty deal, you need him to do more than Mike Williams. Jalen Guyton has emerged as a great deep threat and seems to have developed a nice repertoire with Herbert. This would now give the Chargers an elite No. 1 receiver in Allen, JuJu can go back to being one of the best No. 2 receivers in the NFL, and Jalen Guyton to take the top off defenses.
LA is also extremely close to home for Smith-Schuster. JuJu grew up in Long Beach, California and even has family in the LA area too. He was with the USC Trojans from 2015-2017, and won a Rose Bowl championship during that span. Not to mention the marketing side of leaving Pittsburgh for a place like Los Angeles. Smith-Schuster is already one of the biggest names in football and has made his face one of the most recognizable in the NFL.
Los Angeles does have a few more names outside of Mike Williams they will need to resign though. Denzel Perryman and Melvin Ingram are just a few of the free agents the Chargers will be deciding on this offseason. Personally if you ask me it seems like they are holding out for a guy like JuJu with the lack of movement they have made thus far.
I really do think this would be a match made in heaven for JuJu Smith-Schuster. A fresh start, mixed with a chance to still win meaningful games. If the Chargers just get a solid coaching staff in the building they could actually push forward in the AFC. Can they push for a Super Bowl? That is still too far to tell, but I do love the Chargers chances to add to the offense.