The Las Vegas Raiders are coming off of a disappointing season that was defined by constant struggles on the defensive end of the field.
Despite the defense taking most of the negative attention, there are still improvements that could be made offensively, especially with their wide receiver core. One option could be Pittsburgh Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Smith-Schuster is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and could very well leave the Steelers despite putting up some big numbers during his time there. His best season came in 2018 when he hauled in 111 catches for 1,426 yards, earning him a Pro Bowl selection. He struggled mightily in 2019 due to injuries and shaky quarterback play, but somewhat returned to form in 2020, finishing with 110 catches for 998 yards including the postseason.
On a recent Twitch Live stream, Smith-Schuster listed potential candidates for his next team, including the Raiders, according to Austin Boyd of Heavy.com:
“Should I just stay in Pittsburgh?” Smith-Schuster asked during a Twitch live stream. “Packers, Raiders, Jaguars … the Jets. … There’s a lot of good places to go.
The four-year wide receiver doubled down on his fit with the Raiders later on in the stream:
“Oh, the Raiders? The Raiders are nice.” Smith-Schuster said later in the stream.
The Raiders could absolutely use the services of Smith-Schuster after their wide receiver core struggled again in 2020. Their leading receiver that is not a tight end only caught 56 passes this season, and their receiving yards leader that’s not Darren Waller could not even crack 900 yards.
Having Smith-Schuster come to Las Vegas, just a few hours away from where he grew up and attended college in Los Angeles could drastically improve a receiving core that needs at least one more consistent playmaker. Among free-agent wide receivers, Smith-Schuster was second in receptions and fourth in yards when the postseason is included.
Smith-Schuster could either serve as a replacement or could even play alongside Nelson Agholor, who is also a free agent this offseason. The pair made for quite the duo when they were teammates at USC in 2014.
Jon Gruden has faith in Gus Bradley’s player development skills
While the Raiders will look to improve their receiving core in some way, it’s once again their defense that needs some serious work. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden hired defensive coordinator Gus Bradley banking on his ability to develop young players.
The Raiders will need it, as a majority of their defense is young and had huge issues in the 2020 season. Las Vegas allowed the eighth-most yards and the third-most points per game in the NFL in 2020.