The NY Jets headed into free agency as a team with many positions in need of an upgrade. They addressed one of those positions earlier this week when they signed standout wide receiver Corey Davis to a three-year, $37.5 million contract.
Since the start of free agency, several of the big-name receivers have either received a franchise tag or have been signed to a new contract. However, a few attractive options at the position still remain.
One such player is JuJu Smith-Schuster.
In spite of Thursday’s signing of former Jacksonville Jaguars wideout Keelan Cole, the possibility of obtaining Smith-Schuster still exists.
It would almost certainly mean Jamison Crowder would be released or traded, but the Jets could then utilize the $10 million savings towards a contract for Smith-Schuster.
Over the last several months the Jets’ fanbase has appeared to be split in their opinion of whether the team should sign Smith-Schuster to a multi-year contract.
On one hand, the former USC star has proven to be more of a No. 2 receiver who’s just flashed “big play” ability here and there. But on the other hand, at 24 years of age, Smith-Schuster remains very young and still possesses a tremendous amount of potential.
In today’s NFL you can never have enough wide receivers, and with talent as dynamic as Smith-Schuster still available, let’s take a look at why signing him could be beneficial to the Jets.
The NY Jets would be wise to target JuJu Smith-Schuster
Many of the talent evaluators in the NFL have insisted that since Smith-Schuster’s breakout season in 2018, his productivity has steadily regressed over the past two seasons.
However, when looking more in-depth into his performance, Smith-Schuster appears to offer a great upside to a team in need of a versatile receiver.
Say what you want about his talent, but at the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie. In 2020, Smith-Schuster hauled in 97 receptions for 831 yards and nine touchdowns.
More importantly, 404 of those yards came after the catch which would play very well into new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system.
Yes, Smith-Schuster clearly had a decline in production when compared to his 2018 season where he caught 111 passes for 1,426 and seven touchdowns, but calling him a regressing player is simply unfair and an over-exaggeration.
Consider who was throwing him the ball in 2019 and 2020. Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges led the way in 2019 and last year he had an over-the-hill Ben Roethlisberger.
In addition to his 97 receptions in 2020, Smith-Schuster also had 13 receptions for 157 yards and one touchdown in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.
For his career, the high-profile receiver has totaled 308 receptions for 3,726 yards and 26 touchdowns. His lifetime average yards per catch is 12.1 and he is a receiver who can clearly make things happen after the catch.
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Smith-Schuster would be a significant upgrade for the Jets. For as well as Jamison Crowder has played over the past two years, his numbers still fall short of that of the former Steeler.
In 2020, Crowder hauled in 59 catches for 699 yards and six touchdowns — far short of the numbers that Smith Schuster compiled in a ” so-called ” down season.
Also, when you take into account that Smith-Schuster won’t turn 25 until November 22nd of this year and Crowder will then be 28, it’s pretty clear who the better long-term option for the Jets would be.
Smith-Schuster is a physical and intelligent receiver who can exploit coverage and be utilized from the slot position with both inside and outside routes.
A valid reason for his diminished yards per catch ratio could be attributed to the shorter routes he was assigned and the quicker uptempo offense that was utilized by the Steelers in 2020.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is still very young with untapped potential, and under the coaching of Mike LaFleur could blossom into a true No. 1 receiver.
At the right price, he could be a steal for the Jets.