All the rage lately is how the Steelers will keep Mike Wallace. Things got a bit clearer though in the last 48 hours when the team announced that they had restructured Ben Roethlisberger’s contract. Doing so freed up $8 million in cap space for them and they are now nearly at the magical cap compliant number. They will still need to make adjustments to free up additional money to allocate to any of the free agents they want to tender, including Wallace.
One of the interesting things is that everyone assumes that Wallace will be inundated with offers from other teams hoping to secure his services. While that may very well be the case, it’s not a foregone conclusion that a team will swoop in with a monster contract just yet. The Steelers can still use their franchise tag on Wallace if they choose; something Kevin Colbert mentioned was still a possibility. If they don’t use the tag, even putting the 1st round tender on Wallace may be enough to keep other teams away. Then there’s the possibility that teams just don’t want to part with their premium draft choice even for a guy like Wallace.
A first round draft pick is a coveted commodity and not one to be given up easily when it comes a restricted free agent. Even teams that will be choosing near the end of the draft, like Baltimore who may very well be in the market for a receiver are not exactly jumping for Wallace just yet. According to Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome hinted that his team wasn’t interested. “At that point the player and the agent has the leverage because you have to do a deal that you don’t think the other team is going to match,” Newsome said Friday at the NFL Combine, “and then giving up a first-round pick? That first-round pick, the amount of money you have to pay over the next four years, is not like it was in the previous CBA so you have to factor all of those things in before you decide to make that decision. There are some teams that have two (first-round picks) this year? Could they do it? Possibly but they’ll be thinking about all of those other ramifications.”
Things may change and the Ravens may still end up going after Wallace if he isn’t franchised by the Steelers; the Browns could be certainly be in the mix too. Cleveland has multiple early draft picks that they could afford to deal should they want Wallace. It’s rumored though that the Browns are seriously considering making a run at RG III by trying to trade up to the #2 spot currently occupied by St. Louis. The Patriots and 49ers are also potential suitors for Wallace, as both could use a top receiver to bolster their offenses.
The point is that all those who could be interested in Wallace have other needs that may be more pressing on their draft boards. The money that they would have to pay Wallace would be more than the contract they’ll pay to a top draft pick. Remember last year, Cam Newton’s deal was worth about $22 million; a far cry from years past thanks to the new CBA. Things like this all are taken into consideration and can be a deal breaker for teams courting a restricted free agent.
If the Steelers tender Wallace the approx $2.7 million that it will take to secure a first round pick and Wallace wants to test the market, it may not work out as well as he hopes. WPXI Sports Director Alby Oxenreiter tweeted out recently Alby Oxenreiter
@albyox - If Mike Wallace tests the market, it could possibly backfire–If the interest is lower than expected, his value (and leverage) will go down.
The Steelers hold the cards with Wallace no matter what type of offer he may get. If he doesn’t get the big offer the Steelers will be able to have more leverage to get him signed to a long term deal for less money.
There are so many variables yet to play out before March 13th (free agency starts) that we can all take a step back and breathe for the time being. Would I love another first round pick for the Steelers? You bet! Imagine getting 2 linemen to really sure up the interior for example. Kevin Colbert told made it clear though, that they are going to do everything in their power to keep Wallace. The Steelers are usually successful in such endeavors.