Top Five Best Free Agent Fits For JuJu Smith-Schuster
Updated: Feb 13
(Photo by Justin K. Aller)
As the NFL season draws to a close, many teams are looking back on their seasons to see what weaknesses need to be addressed. The 2021 NFL draft serves to restock teams with young promising rookies, while free agency is filled with players already established.
One of those players is JuJu Smith-Schuster. An ex-USC Trojan and current TikTok star, he is considered a veteran at the spry age of 24. With Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers, he averaged 77 catches, 932 yards, and 6.5 TDs during four years with the black and gold.
Despite decent production, a lot is unknown about him. He spent two years underneath Antonio Brown and has had several injuries. In 2020, he managed to find the end zone nine times, but only managed 6.5 yards per target, the lowest in his career.
Perhaps a change of scenery will unleash his full potential. From a fantasy perspective, where would his best fit be starting in the new 2021 campaign? Here are his Top 5 destinations.
1. Miami Dolphins – The Miami Dolphins currently have two draft picks in the first round. They are projected to solidify their offensive line with the monster that is Penei Sewell with their 1.03 and may draft a WR with their 1.18. Perhaps Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, or Heisman trophy winner Devonta Smith (if any fall that far).
The Dolphins managed to tank for Tua Tagovailoa last year, and have a solid backfield with Myles Gaskin when healthy. They need to fill holes in their receiving corps. DeVante Parker could serve as an understudy to JuJu, even a 1B. Lynn Bowden, Jr. was a rookie choice last year who only was minorly impactful after recovering from an injury.
JuJu could fill in on the outside to prove he can be a No. 1 receiver or he could fill in the slot, where he lined up 82.2% of the time last year. The addition of Sewell, a healthy DeVante Parker, and even the departure of Ryan Fitzpatrick will allow an underperforming Dolphins offense to reach new heights in 2021.
The absence of Fitzpatrick would show trust in Tua's ability to lead them to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. They certainly need to take a step forward to compete with the newly crowned AFC East Champion Buffalo Bills, and the champions of old, Bill Belichick’s Patriots (you know they wouldn’t stay away for long). JuJu is the type of receiver that will extend drives on third downs, something crucial when building a relationship with a QB.
2. New York Jets – Next up, we’ll stay in the AFC East with the New York Jets. Man, this team needs a lot of work.
They were dead last in scoring offense and near the bottom of scoring and passing defense. They also failed to tank correctly and won two out of their last three games. Adam Gase has left his stench on yet another team.
Following QB, WR is another need in their offense. JuJu could team up with ex-Trojan teammate Sam Darnold if they decide to keep him another year. JuJu’s veteran presence could also help mentor Denzel Mims who never broke out in the 2020 season.
If the Jets decide to take a QB like Justin Fields, JuJu’s large frame would be a stable target he could use time and again. Breshad Perriman will be a free agent, and Jamison Crowder would fit better in the No. 2 WR role.
New head coach Robert Saleh will aim to solidify the defense which can keep their offense on the field. Additionally, finding a new mid-tier running back like Marlon Mack or Kenyan Drake will also serve to unlock the offense. Cap will not be an issue as they have $55.6 million available to splurge.
The stars must certainly align for the Green Machine to take a step forward, but one of the pieces that can make it happen is my man JuJu.
3. New England Patriots – Man, the Pats’ offense last season was brutal. Not only did Cam Newton look like he forgot how to throw the football, but his receivers also forgot how to catch; they were held to just four total touchdowns on the year. Julian Edelman had been their most stable receiver in years past, but the Pats could save money by letting the 35-year-old receiver go and going full-throttle on the rebuild.
But with Bill Belichick, do you really think they would be down and out for long? JuJu would be a viable slot receiver in a Josh McDaniels-led offense that has consistently emphasized the position (see Wes Welker and Julian Edelman). JuJu could also still play on the outside if Belichick and McDaniels like Gunnar Olszewski (bless you) in the slot.
The Pats have over $68 million in cap space, N’Keal Harry has not performed well enough when on the field, and Damiere Byrd has not proven near enough to be a No. 1 target. Even though the Patriots are typically faders when it comes to free agency and build from within, they will need to splash the cash to stay competitive in the AFC East.
A lot depends on whom they select at QB. As sticking with Cam Newton is doubtful, the Patriots could find a QB that slides to them in the first round, stick to developing Jarret Stidham, or even make a deal with an old QB prodigy by the name of Jimmy Garoppolo.
No matter whom they have at QB, expect the Patriots to rebound in 2021, and JuJu could play a key part.
4. Detroit Lions – The Detroit Lions may be the neediest at the WR position on this list. Both their top two wideouts, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, Jr, are free agents and may walk. So who will catch passes from the newly acquired Jared Goff?
If they don’t sign either of the two mentioned WRs, the only other receiver left on their active roster is Quintez Cephus. Even if the Lions decide to pick a top receiver, say, Devonta Smith, with the seventh overall, the Lions would need a veteran presence to stabilize the offense.
One of Goff’s favorite receivers, Robert Woods, played in the slot and went 90/936/6 last year. Now JuJu may not be able to produce that well with Detroit, but he would certainly receive a higher target share. New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn was also able to utilize the best out of Keenan Allen in Los Angeles and will look to do the same with JuJu.
T.J. Hockenson had his best performance in his sophomore year, and you can make the argument that he will already be Goff’s No.1 target. Luckily for JuJu, he would easily slip in as the #1 wideout assuming they do not retain their top two guys. Rookie phenom Deandre Swift looks to continue on the hot end of his rookie season which could add to the efficiency of the offense. The Detroit Lions look to build up what was a less than league average offense in 2020, and the addition of JuJu would be a start.
5. Washington Football Team – Unlike its nickname, Washington’s season was anything but bland. Taking Chase Young second overall in the 2020 draft created one of the most dangerous defensive lines in the NFL. Even the weakest division in football turned about to be entertaining, as the WFT turned out to win it.
The weak link of the team was certainly its offense. Comeback Player of the Year Alex Smith served as a good leader and committed few mistakes, but his inability or lack of confidence to throw down the field limited the offense as a whole.
The WFT certainly has nice pieces to build around. Terry McScorin’ will come into his third year, Antonio Gibson will look to start his sophomore season with a bang, and late-bloomer Logan Thomas will be a reliable big-bodied target. Like most of the other teams on this list, WFT needs a slot/WR1B player to take the offense to the next level.
The WFT signed QB Taylor Heinicke to a two-year deal, perhaps rewarding its new “star” for his performance against the Buccaneers in the Wild Card round (he was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded QB against them in the playoffs, beating Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Patrick Mahomes).
The Football Team will probably invest more in their young defense than look to sign a well-known QB, leaving more funds to find a new receiver. Steven Simms, Jr. and Antonio Gandy-Golden did not cut it alongside McLaurin. Hear me out, if Washington does sign JuJu during the offseason, you’re going to want a piece of this offense in 2021.