As the Detroit Lions look at wide receiver additions, does JuJu Smith-Schuster make sense as a free agent target?
JuJu Smith-Schuster found a light market for his services last offseason, so he wound up back with the Pittsburgh Steelers on a one-year, $8 million “prove it” deal. Then he missed 12 regular season games due to a shoulder injury, before returning for the Steelers’ Wild Card Round loss to the Chiefs.
Smith-Schuster will now hit the market again, at somehow still just 25 years old with 97 and 111-catch seasons on his resume. Despite some comments saying otherwise, he may be ready to move on from the Steelers.
After not getting much (or anything) from their top two free agent signees at the position last offseason, the Detroit Lions will surely take a more significant dip into the wide receiver market this offseason.
If wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El has his way, the Lions will draft two wide receivers and sign a third. Ultimately the semantics of the additions aren’t important, Randle El wants plenty of competition in his position group and there will be new players in the mix.
2022 NFL Free Agency: Does JuJu Smith-Schuster make sense for the Lions?
Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report put together a list of best free agent landing spots for Smith-Schuster, presented in alphabetical order in lieu of a hard ranking. That’s why the Lions were No. 3 on the list.
Here’s what Knox wrote:
Smith-Schuster is only 25 years old, so he would make a ton of sense for a rebuilding team like the Detroit Lions.
With nearly $24 million in projected cap space, Detroit should have little trouble making a play for Smith-Schuster. The Lions also need another quality target to pair with 2021 rookie surprise Amon-Ra St. Brown.
St. Brown caught at least eight passes in each of his final six games and finished his rookie season with 90 catches for 912 yards and five touchdowns. He figures to earn plenty of defensive attention moving forward, which should give a No. 2 like Smith-Schuster frequent one-on-one opportunities if he were to join Detroit.
In turn, Smith-Schuster could help elevate the Lions’ passing attack. Despite having St. Brown shine late in the year, Detroit ranked only 24th in net yards per pass attempt. No other wideout topped 600 receiving yards for the Lions.
Like Chicago and Dallas, the Lions could use receiving help, but they could instantly pair Smith-Schuster with a potent young pass-catcher.
Smith-Schuster’s best season (111 receptions for 1,426 yards) came in 2018, with Antonio Brown as the proverbial No. 1 receiver who commanded the attention of the opposition’s top cover corner. With the added perspective of three more seasons since, regardless of all the circumstances, Smith-Schuster is an ideal complementary, No. 2 wide receiver.
Smith-Schuster hinted at wanting to play for the Dallas Cowboys recently, and he’ll surely have multiple offers come his way. As for the Lions levying one of said offers, they’ll probably have other wide receivers they prioritize more as free agent targets and Smith-Schuster will thus land elsewhere rather easily.