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Predicting a second contract for JuJu Smith-Schuster with the Steelers

If the Steelers and Smith-Schuster can work out a deal to keep the wide receiver in Pittsburgh beyond his rookie contract, what would it look like?

Los Angeles Rams v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 offseason has progressed appropriately since the beginning of the league year. With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, the Steelers were able to restructure contracts, offer tenders, use the franchise tag, sign free agents, make their draft selections, and get their undrafted rookie free agents under contract. With a focus on getting their draftees under contract in the coming weeks, the Steelers will also be looking to sign some players to either a new contract or a contract extension.

While some of these new deals may not come until the summer, it’s not out of the question for player representatives and the Steelers to be working on something now. With that said, which Steelers going into the last year of the current deal are likely to be given a new contract before the 2020 season begins?

Rather than focus on all the players, let’s tackle one at a time. With each player, it will first be determined if they should receive a new deal along with how much would be a fair contract to both parties. This exercise is meant to just be fun and speculative as we all get to play general manager and salary cap guru for a day.

If you wish to give a basic contract answer without diving too deep into numbers, simply skip over the italicized section. If you are the kind of person who would like to see how the contract would affect the salary cap, here it is...

Coming up with an exact contract can be tricky. Rather than get into roster and work out bonuses or different amounts per season, we’re going to estimate the salaries as simply as possible. For whatever deal the player gets, the first year will have all but $1 million put into a signing bonus which will get spread over the life of the contract. For example, if a player were to sign a three-year contract for $10 million per year, the first year would have a $1 million base salary and a $9 million signing bonus. Therefore, the bonus would be spread out to $3 million over each season where the player would count $4 million dollars for 2020 and $13 million for the other two years.

One other factor which needs to be considered is if the player brings any dead money from the previous contract. To account for this in a simple manner, throw it into the salary cap hit for the first year of the players deal. Using the above example, if a player had $4 million in dead money on their last contract, the salary cap hit for their first year would be $8 million.

After looking at a deal for Cam Heyward as well as Bud Dupree, now let’s see what kind of contract Steelers’ fans would like to work out with JuJu Smith-Schuster rather than play the 2020 season on the final year of his rookie deal.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Age: 23
Years: 3
Draft: 2nd Round, pick 62 in 2017
Previous Contract: Rookie contract
2020 salary cap hit: $1,335,020
Dead Money: $297,869

Other top contracts average per year (AYP) at the wide receiver position according to

Julio Jones: $22 million
Amari Cooper: $20 million
Michael Thomas: $19.25 million
A.J. Green: $18.171 million
Tyreek Hill: $18 million
Odell Beckham Jr.: $18 million

Smith-Schuster ranked 85th among wide receivers in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus. Here are the players under contract beyond their rookie deals who ranked closely to JuJu:

76. Phillip Dorsett: $1.048 million
78. Damiere Byrd: $1.6 million
83. Seth Roberts: $3.75 million
87. Chris Conley: $2.3 million
92. Albert Wilson: $8 million
100. Mohamed Sanu: $6.5 million

Notes: The biggest trick when it comes to Smith-Schuster is the money. After a down 2019 season, it’s hard to calculate what kind of salary JuJu would command. The top 24 salaries for receivers in the NFL are all making $10 million or more per season. Does JuJu deserve that much money? Could the Steelers get a better deal this year after a down yeaar from Smith-Schuster? Or is the best bet for both sides to wait and see what the 2020 season brings?

So now it’s deal time! Perhaps the first question should be a completely different game show: Deal or no deal? Should the Steelers look to sign JuJu Smith-Schuster going into the final year of his rookie contract? If so, what should the deal look like? Please leave your response with the number of years and the average salary per season in the comments below.

Next time on Let’s Make A Deal: Alejandro Villanueva.