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Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller avoid franchise tag, to hit free agency

The wide receiver position will have some big producers hitting the open market when 2021 NFL free agency opens on March 17th. We break down some key names that avoided the franchise tag.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay warms up before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Ford Field. Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday’s franchise tag deadline has come and gone, and some quality pass-catchers were left without homes after 3:00 p.m. ET. Teams looking to upgrade their passing attacks are bound to swarm the top talent. We’ve identified three targets that stand out as potential top options. Let’s take a look at the best the free agency market has to offer.

Kenny Golladay

Golladay was a monster for the Detroit Lions 2018 and 2019, racking up 135 catches for 2,253 yards and 16 touchdowns. The former Detroit Lions standout dealt with a slew of injuries in 2020 and was held to 20 receptions for 338 yards and two touchdowns. Matthew Stafford has been traded to the Los Angeles Rams, and there’s an air of uncertainty around what Jared Goff will bring to the Motor City. Golladay is an elite deep threat, and his 6’4” frame makes him great for hauling in contested catches. He hasn’t been linked to any teams just yet, but suitors will come calling soon.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Smith-Schuster was supposed to have a breakout year in 2020 following Antonio Brown’s departure. However, he was overshadowed by up-and-coming wideouts Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson at times. Ben Roethlisberger is on the decline, but there’s plenty of talent in the Steelers’ receiving corps. Smith-Schuster has made it clear that he wants to remain in Pittsburgh. Unreasonable contract demands could result in him walking, though. Whether he and the Steelers will be able to compromise remains to be seen. The 24-year-old ranked third in receiving yards (831) for the Steelers but led all players in targets (97) and receiving touchdowns (9).

Will Fuller

Fuller was destined for a breakout season when the Houston Texans traded DeAndre Hopkins and was a critical part of Deshaun Watson’s career year. He tallied career highs in receptions (53), receiving yards (879), and touchdowns (8) and was at his peak right before the NFL suspended him for abusing its PED policy in November. The speedster’s six-game suspension will carry over into 2021, but his talent makes it difficult to pass on the opportunity to sign him long-term.