JuJu Smith-Schuster showed loyalty to the Pittsburgh Steelers in returning to them despite interest from other teams. In the process, he signed a one-year deal with the Steelers, which had a small effect on the cap space this year, and then used void years to pay for the balance of the contract. It was kind of a "prove yourself" type of deal that JuJu Smith-Schuster signed, and with his injury probably enough to curtail his season, his current contract might come back to haunt him.
When will JuJu Smith-Schuster be back?
JuJu Smith-Schuster dislocated his shoulder in Week 5 and is expected to undergo surgery. The timeframe for his return is 4 months, which effectively means he is out for the season.
Thus, he will have no opportunity to prove either to the Steelers or to anyone else how good he is after injury, which will cause his value to drop. It will probably mean him settling for something less than what he could have got this season if he had not signed the current contract.
How is JuJu Smith-Schuster's contract structured?
JuJu Smith-Schuster showed amazing loyalty to the Pittsburgh Steelers in coming back when genuine Super Bowl contenders like the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens were eyeing him in the off-season. But because of the salary cap situation in Pittsburgh, they signed him to a one-year deal and spread the salary over this year and subsequent years. The following years, since they are not part of the duration of the contract, but will count towards the cap of the franchise are known as void years.
If JuJu Smith-Schuster had instead gone on to sign with some other team, there is a good chance he would have got a longer deal. That would have also meant that instead of the dues to him getting pushed into the next few years, they would be more front-loaded with guarantees.
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By signing on to the current one-year deal, compounded by the injury, there is a good chance that JuJu Smith-Schuster misses out on the money that his current talent demands as he might get cut. Injuries also limit him from showing his potential in the league, which can give him a great payday elsewhere. This whole saga is a salutory lesson to all players in always playing for their own benefit in a short career and not for the franchises who show scarce loyalty to players.