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Star WR JuJu Smith-Schuster suggests he’s not returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers

Vincent Frank
Pittsburgh Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster
Oct 22, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) scores a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

JuJu Smith-Schuster is among the top skill-position players set to his NFL free agency next week. The star Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver is likely to cash in with a huge pay day.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like said pay day is going to be from the cash-strapped Steelers. They opted against placing the franchise tag on any of their impending free agents prior to the deadline earlier this week, Smith-Schuster included. Pittsburgh also has a ton of other free agents to worry about.

Just recently, Smith-Schuster took to social media and seemed to hint at what direction he’s leaning with free agency getting going here soon.

Read More: Top 50 NFL free agents of 2021

JuJu Smith-Schuster hints that he’s not returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers

JuJu Smith-Schuster, NFL free agent
Dec 13, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Sports Illustrated just recently ran a poll on Instagram with two options. They included “I hope so” and “that’s a negative.” The former USC standout opted for the latter.

This is a clear indication Smith-Schuster believes that he’s headed to another NFL city once the negotiating window opens up on March 15.

One of the more-productive receivers in the NFL since the Steelers made him a second-round pick back in 2017, Smith-Schuster will be met with a solid market.

He tallied 97 receptions for 831 yards and nine touchdowns while catching a resounding 75.8% of his targets from Ben Roethlisberger a season ago. Back in 2018, the still-young 24-year-old receiver hauled in 111 passes for 1,427 yards in Pittsburgh. Needless to say, other teams could use that production.

Read More: NFL salary cap tracker: Where each team stands in 2021

Where will JuJu Smith-Schuster land in free agency?

Las Vegas Raiders: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Jan 3, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are expected to have interest in all of the top-end pass-catchers set to his NFL free agency. That will obviously include Smith-Schuster. Miami currently has $33.1 million in room under the 2021 NFL salary cap and can create even more room with a few other moves here soon.

As for the teams with the most money to spend, the Indianapolis Colts could make sense. They are on the verge of losing longtime receiver T.Y. Hilton in free agency. Flush with $48.07 million in cap room, Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard needs to find more weapons for the recently-acquired Carson Wentz.

Two west-coast teams in that of the San Francisco 49ers and Las Vegas Raiders would also make sense for the California native. JuJu Smith-Schuster is an elite slot option. Sure San Francisco doesn’t have a ton of room to spend under the cap, but it needs help in the slot. Meanwhile, the Raiders could view him as an upgrade over current slot guy Hunter Renfrow.

As for the wide receiver’s market, he’s likely looking at top-six money at that position in free agency. Something to the tune of $18 million annually over five seasons could make sense.

Then again, Smith-Schuster might join others in taking a one-year deal in order to hit the NFL free agent market in 2022 when the cap is expected to increase a ton.

Remember, the 2021 NFL salary cap has been impacted big time by the revenue downfall around the league last season due to COVID-19. With the league expecting fans in the stands next season and a soon-to-be signed massive television contract, that won’t be an issue next March.

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