Consider the Jets officially as big-game hunters. Now we’ll see just how good their aim is.
Just days after agreeing to a three-year, $37.5 million deal with playmaking wide receiver Corey Davis, formerly of the Tennessee Titans, the Jets “have been having discussions” with Pittsburgh Steelers free-agent pass-catcher, JuJu Smith-Schuster, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The Jets have been in dire need of legitimate playmakers, especially on the outside. It was one of the glaring factors on a list of shortcomings — headlined by an inept offensive line — that put Sam Darnold behind the proverbial 8-ball during his professional development after being taken third overall in 2018.
Now, the Jets are in an offseason that could spell the end of the Darnold era while they finally stack up on viable wide receivers. It is worth noting that he and Smith-Schuster played together at USC.
Smith-Schuster is one of the more electrifying young receivers in all of football, posting 16-game averages over his first four pro seasons of 85 receptions for 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns.
But he found himself in the spotlight at times for the wrong reasons last year when he made a habit of dancing on the opposing team’s logo at midfield — especially during the Steelers’ torrid 11-0 start in 2020. It came back to bite him when Pittsburgh struggled down the stretch and was eliminated in the AFC Wild Card Round by the Cleveland Browns.
With his rookie deal having expired and the Steelers possessing minimal cap space — somewhere around $12 million — Smith-Schuster’s return to Pittsburgh always erred on the side of doubtful. He even voted “that’s a negative” on an Instagram poll asking if he would return to Pittsburgh in 2021.
As his career progressed, Smith-Schuster has developed into more of a slot receiver that carries the occasional threat of making a big play on the outside. After averaging 13.7 yards per reception over his first three seasons, he averaged just 8.6 yards per catch last season.
Bringing him on would likely lead to the Jets cutting veteran slot receiver Jamison Crowder, who is owed $10 million in 2021. But it would create one of the more promising trios of wide receivers in Jets franchise history alongside Davis, who had a career-high 984 receiving yards and five touchdowns last year, and second-year man Denzel Mims, who showed flashes of developing into a big-play threat last year after being in the second round out of Baylor.