JuJu Smith-Schuster came quite close to grabbing a fresh start in his first go at NFL free agency, but instead decided there's unfinished business with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The animated wide receiver has agreed to stay put on a one-year, $8 million deal -- CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora confirmed. This gives him at least one more season to prove he's worth more money than he would've received in an offseason wherein teams are in a salary cap crunch with financial pressure spilling over in the form of a slow-developing WR market.
Smith-Schuster reacted to the news on social media.
[Warning: Clip contains mature language.]
It's reported Smith-Schuster took a massive pay cut to stick around with the Steelers, which bears out in the aforementioned $8 million max value, and is something he would've had to do when considering Pittsburgh's cap situation. It also means he waved off much more money to go elsewhere, with the New York Jets having recently courted him with what was potentially a much more robust offer.
There are also reports, per Taylor Bisciotti of NFL Network, that the 24-year-old passed on joining the Kansas City Chiefs on an $8 million deal with $3 million in incentives, and La Canfora confirms there was also $9.5 million offer from the rival Baltimore Ravens that included $3.5 million in incentives. And in an attempt to help coax Smith-Schuster into severing his loyalty to Pittsburgh, former league MVP Lamar Jackson got in on the negotiations. And there's more, considering the Philadelphia Eagles were also reportedly in on the young wideout with a multi-year deal, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, as general manager Howie Roseman attempted a coup in the chase for the former second-round pick.
He is undoubtedly hoping for a bigger, long-term deal in 2022 (passing on Philly's in 2021) -- using one more year in a familiar Pittsburgh offense -- to help make his case for it.
"Can't say it enough: I love you Pittsburgh," Smith-Schuster tweeted. "Came in here a young 20-year-old and you guys embraced me from the moment I got here. So much love. Had my back thru everything -- all the struggles and success.
"So hard to leave. See you this Fall in Heinz [Field]. WE'RE GOING CRAZY!!!"
Smith-Schuster burst onto the NFL scene after being selected by the Steelers in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, helping to grease the wheels for the organization to cut ties with mercurial All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown. After reeling in 917 receiving yards and seven touchdowns as a complement to Brown in Year 1, Smith-Schuster exploded for 1,426 receiving yards on 111 receptions in Year 2.
He's not been the same in seasons since, however, with his production waning while his TikTok antics increased, leading to head coach Mike Tomlin having a conversation with him about his pregame ritual of filming for social media on the opponent's midfield logo.
It appears that is all behind them, though, as they ready to get back to work for 2021.