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2021 NFL Free Agency: JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner to Dolphins?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Could the Miami Dolphins be eyeing two former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive weapons in this year’s free agent market? As we move to within a week of the start of free agency, and just a few days away from the start of the “legal tampering” period, the Dolphins continue to be linked to several big-name, soon to be available veterans. According to ESPN’s John Clayton, there are two big names from the Steelers who could be heading to South Florida.

During a weekly appearance on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, Clayton discussed wide receiver JuJu Smith Schuster and running back James Conner. For both of them, he sees the Dolphins as possible landing spots.

Yeah, I would have to think that Miami would be in the hunt,” Clayton said of Smith Schuster. “The New England Patriots could be in the hunt, although it’s not Bill Belichick’s nature to pay top receivers that much money. It’s just like he doesn’t pay pass rushers top money. You know, he tends to go a different way. But they’re sitting there with $68 million of cap room and they don’t have hardly anything at receiver.”

The Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals are also mentioned by Clayton as teams who could be interested in the receiver.

While he projects Smith Schuster to be a $15 million per year player, Clayton points to the lowered salary cap for this season as a reason a player may have to a take a smaller-than-expected contract.

In his first four seasons in the league, Smith Schuster has caught 308 passes for 3,726 yards with 26 touchdowns. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2018. He will turn 25 during the 2021 season.

As for Conner, Clayton explains, ““I know there’s interest in Miami in him, and there’s going to be interest because there’s so many running backs that are going to be available at lower prices, but he’s going to be available at a lower price.” Clayton suggests Conner could be headed toward a $3-$4 million a year contract.

He sees the top running back on the market, the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Jones, who has also been linked to the Dolphins, could set the top of this year’s market at $10 million. He thinks most running backs are going to be under $8 million.

Conner, in four seasons with the Steelers, has rushed 532 times for 2,302 yards, giving him a career, 4.3 yards per attempt average. He was selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl. He turns 26 in May.

Could the Dolphins add two Steelers to their offense this offseason? The team is adding space to their salary cap this year, including officially announcing the release of linebacker Kyle Van Noy yesterday, and could be looking to make splash moves. They are also a team that has stressed youth lately, so adding a 24 year old receiver and a 26 year old running back does not seem out of the realm of possibility.