Why the Ravens need to consider signing JuJu Smith-Schuster
The Baltimore Ravens need help at wide receiver. Could they look to former division rival JuJu Smith-Schuster as a free agent target?
ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky and Mina Kimes both got the attention of Ravens fans earlier this week when they suggested that the team should sign Pittsburgh Steelers pending free agent receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Known most these days for his touchdown celebrations and TikTok dances, the 24-year-old quickly became something of a firebrand during the 2020 season. He is thought of by many as helping create the kind of distracting atmosphere that caused the Steelers to drop four of their final five games this past season.
But he’s also averaged 931.5 receiving yards and 77 catches over the course of his first four seasons, the kind of production the Ravens desperately need if they’re going to raise the profile of their passing attack. So should Baltimore give their former rival a look? Absolutely.
As my colleague, Chris Schisler wrote earlier this week,
"“If the Ravens did this they would be adding a player in his prime and a former Pro Bowl receiver. Jackson to Smith-Schuster has a bit of a ring to it.”"
When he’s focused, Smith-Schuster is in many ways the perfect modern Raven. It’s been well-documented how, as he became more experienced as a head coach, John Harbaugh learned to loosen up a little and let his players show their personalities. And while work ethic and high motor are still cornerstones of the Ravens way, players like Mark Ingram have shown that character, work ethic, and personality can all coexist.
And sure, Ray Lewis may not have had TikTok, but it’s not like Baltimore’s never had a star that loved to dance.
Smith-Schuster’s fun side has certainly received plenty of attention, but something that seemed to stay much more under the radar this past season was just how tough and physical he was on the field.
Throw on tape of the USC product and you’ll see play after play where he is fighting for extra yards and throwing his body forwards, backward, and upside down to move the sticks. Watching even a few snaps from the four-year veteran quickly puts any questions to bed about his desire to win.
At 6″1, Smith-Schuster may not profile as a true “big receiver” in the same mold as other free agents like Corey Davis (6″3) or A.J. Green (6″4), but would still bring some degree of size to a Ravens receiving core that currently features just one receiver above six feet (Miles Boykin – 6″4).
And as a 24-year-old with four years of NFL experience under his belt, the former Pro Bowler would join a young Ravens offense that is still on the upswing, while also adding a veteran presence to a receiving core of players that are all still under rookie contracts.
That he hasn’t set the world on fire over the last two seasons in an underwhelming Steelers offense also stands to drive his price down, which only further benefits Baltimore.
The Bottom Line:
JuJu Smith-Schuster may be the most polarizing receiver on the market, but he shouldn’t be. Unlike many big personalities with diva reputations, he plays hard and clearly loves the game of football.
He run blocks well, makes quick-strike plays, and would simply take the Ravens offense to a much higher level. TikTok’s not a crime, and if you really think doing dances at the 50 after games is a deal-breaker for the Ravens, you clearly haven’t been paying attention.