The 2022 NFL free agency period is off and running at a furious pace. As players continue to sign, predictions for Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster continue to be discussed. Which NFL teams who need additional receiver help could benefit the most from acquiring Smith-Schuster in free agency?
Predictions for JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2022 NFL Free Agency
Smith-Schuster is one of the most intriguing receivers in free agency. In 2018, the NFL saw what he could bring to an offense. Playing alongside Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster led the Steelers in receptions with 111, was No. 5 in the NFL in yards (1,426), and had 7 touchdowns. Unfortunately, Smith-Schuster has yet to match that same level of excitement.
Up-and-down play over the next two years put in doubt whether Smith-Schuster could be a top target in an offense. Last offseason, Smith-Schuster bet on himself, signing a one-year contract to return to Pittsburgh. Yet, things did not go as hoped.
A shoulder injury sustained in Week 5 ended his regular season. However, he did return for the Steelers’ Wild Card game. In his four full regular-season games, Smith-Schuster had 129 yards (8.6 ypr) and no touchdowns on 15-of-27 receiving. He once again hits the open market with no shortage of teams as predicted landing spots.
Kansas City Chiefs
The arms race is on in the AFC West. The Chargers and Broncos have narrowed the gap with the Chiefs and their stranglehold on the division. Last year, Smith-Schuster reportedly turned down a multi-year deal to play with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. If Kansas City offers him another contract, I don’t think the same outcome would happen again.
PFN NFL Insider Aaron Wilson reported on January 25 that Smith-Schuster is interested in the Chiefs. Given the two sides nearly came together last offseason, this makes complete sense. Assuming the USC standout can remain healthy, he could become a productive complement alongside Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. This is one of the more popular predictions for Smith-Schuster, and given the incredible skill of Mahomes, it is easy to see why.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have been quiet in free agency so far. Their only activity has been watching CB J.C. Jackson (Chargers) and C Ted Karras (Bengals) sign with other teams and re-signing RB James White. However, the Patriots are still expected to attempt to revamp their receiving room. While they placed a second-round tender on Jakobi Meyers, more work is still to be done. Mac Jones appears to be a quarterback to build a team around, but he needs additional weapons.
Smith-Schuster has found success both in the slot and on the perimeter, which would fit in the Patriots system nicely. He is also more than an eager blocker, which will endear him to head coach Bill Belichick. In fact, Smith-Schuster stated that after the Steelers and Patriots played in 2018, Belichick told him how much he respects his game and how he plays. Could this come full circle with Smith-Schuster landing in New England?
The Colts have remained stagnant despite having the most available salary cap space heading into free agency. They have yet to make a move since the trade of Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders. There are still substantial questions surrounding their receiving room. While Michael Pittman Jr. was able to be the top target last season, he can not do it alone in 2022.
T.Y. Hilton is 32 and a free agent, and Zach Pascal is also hitting the open market. Over his last three seasons, Pascal has averaged 41 receptions on nearly 71 targets for 540 yards with 13 total touchdowns as one of the more underrated complementary receivers in the league. The jury remains out on Parris Campbell, who has played 15 games in his three seasons due to various season-ending injuries.
Smith-Schuster would be able to come to Indianapolis and help stabilize the WR room, playing the Z or in the slot alongside Pittman and leaving room for additional upgrades along the way. The Colts haven’t done much so far, but bringing in Smith-Schuster would be a quick way to get their free agency period going in the right direction.
New York Jets
The Jets are another team to keep an eye on. They are reportedly “in the mix” for Allen Robinson, but given the contract given to Christian Kirk, Robinson might be a touch more expensive than they feel comfortable with at the moment.
New York did re-sign Braxton Berrios to a two-year, $12 million deal that includes $7 million fully guaranteed, which gives them depth. However, he is not a featured player. The Jets have a star in the making with Elijah Moore, while Corey Davis is a talented boundary receiver. Smith-Schuster could come in as the Z and give Zach Wilson another young, high-level target for years to come.