The Las Vegas Raiders enter another NFL offseason seeking to make significant changes after failing to make the playoffs again. As Jon Gruden and Co. look to reshape the Raiders’ offense before the 2021 season, they might have their eye on JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Las Vegas is already planning its first big move this spring, with wide receiver Tyrell Williams set to be released when the 2021 league year opens. The move should help create significant cap space, a glaring problem for the Raiders and other NFL teams this offseason. With Williams gone and Marcus Mariota on the trade block, Las Vegas could be poised to open up its wallets once again.
Las Vegas Raiders interested in prized free-agent wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster
According to NFL insider John Clayton, the Las Vegas Raiders are very interested in signing JuJu Smith-Schuster this offseason. An unrestricted free agent, the 24-year-old is expected to test the market and might be atop Jon Gruden’s wish list.
Smith-Schuster hasn’t played to the level we saw in his breakout 2018 season. With Antonio Brown taking attention from opponents, Smith-Schuster had plenty of room to operate in one-on-one coverage operating out of the slot. He erupted for 111 receptions, 1,426 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. In just his first two seasons, the former second-round pick racked up 2,343 receiving yards and 14 scores in 30 games and looked like an NFL star.
Things have spiraled down since that impressive stretch. He played in 12 games during the 2019 season and his contributions were greatly impacted by Ben Roethlisberger’s injury. Smith-Schuster snagged just 42 catches for 552 receiving yards in his third NFL season. Big Ben returned in 2020, but Smith-Schuster’s role in the offense changed.
Diontae Johnson became the playmaker in Pittsburgh’s passing attack, shoving Smith-Schuster into a much smaller role. After averaging 13.7 yards per catch across his first three seasons, he averaged 8.6 yards per catch this past year. The Steelers used him entirely to move the chains, with 48 of his 97 receptions going for first downs.
He also brings plenty of antics and the Steelers seem open to letting him walk, which should raise some concerns. Since this will be his first opportunity to land a life-changing contract, he could sign with the team that makes him the largest offer. There’s a chance Smith-Schuster could return to form in Las Vegas, with Gruden unleashing the playmaker we saw a few years ago. But the risk is undeniable and Las Vegas should consider improving its defense before adding another weapon on offense.