The Pittsburgh Steelers have a number of key contributors set to hit free agency this offseason, including wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
While the fan favorite’s time in Pittsburgh could end in a matter of months, one NFL insider has a plan to keep Smith-Schuster a Steeler, at least temporarily.
CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora believes the Steelers could place the franchise tag on Smith-Schuster, only to flip him shortly after in a trade.
The Steelers would have to work some salary cap magic to fit Smith-Schuster’s hefty franchise tag price, but could potentially recoup better assets via trade than the third-round compensatory pick they would receive if he signed elsewhere.
“Redoing Ben Roethlisberger’s deal and cutting a few guys would allow them to carry JuJu into the league year as a means to dealing him for more than the third-round comp pick they might get in 2022,” La Canfora writes. “With a bunch of WRs possibly getting the tag, will they control the asset and deal him to a receiver-needy team with money to burn?”
Plenty of teams could use a receiver of Smith-Schuster’s caliber and would likely shed assists to acquire his services, such as the Las Vegas Raiders or New York Jets, hypothetically.
According to La Canfora, his sources had informed him that tagging outside linebacker Bud Dupree for a second-straight season was not out of the question. Given Dupree’s season-ending knee injury, the tag appears to have opened up for use elsewhere.
Clubs can begin applying their franchise tags on Feb. 23, according to the tentative offseason calendar released by the league last November.