Monday was the deadline for teams to use their franchise tags on players and one of them was used by Buffalo on their receiver, Stevie Johnson. According Adam Schefter of ESPN, Johnson signed a five-year, $36.25 million deal that includes $19.5 million guaranteed, and over $24 million in first three years. His annual compensation is $7.25 million.
That is some serious money for anyone, and you can you bet the Mike Wallace camp, as well as the Steelers front office is well aware of the terms of that contract. As the team continues to try and work out a long term deal with Wallace before March 13th (deadline for restricted tenders, start of free agency), it’s probably a safe bet that team Wallace is going to look for Stevie Johnson money, at least.
If you compare the stats of the 2 players in 2011, you can see just how similar they are overall:
Wallace: 72 catches 1,193 yards 16.6 ypc 8 touchdowns.
Johnson:76 catches, 1,004 yards 13.2 ypc 7 touchdowns.
The Steelers finished 10th in the league in passing overall, while the Bills finished 15th, so both have a focus on the passing game and the potential to be great. Most people would agree that Ben Roethlisberger is a more accomplished NFL Quarterback than Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick however both of their primary targets are game changers and both have bright future’s in the league. It only stands to reason that their contracts will end up being very similar. According to BuffaloRumblings.com, Johnson was offering the team a “home-town discount” in asking for $7.5 million annually. Could Wallace be willing to offer that same type of peace offering? We just don’t know yet.
It’s probably a safe assumption right now that in the discussions of his new contract both the Steelers and Wallace have been in the ball park of what Johnson was going to receive. However Wallace believes he is a game changer, an elite receiver in the NFL so don’t throw out the possibility that he many want more. Regardless of his struggles in the 2nd half of 2011, the Steelers feel so highly of Wallace that they have said they want him to finish his career in Pittsburgh. Wallace also said he’d like remain in Pittsburgh (in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio) but he knows it’s a business. I listened to the interview and Wallace appears to be ok with the idea of going elsewhere for the right money. He wasn’t rude nor did he talk poorly of his time in Pittsburgh; but at the same time he wants his payday and rightfully so. If that’s in Pittsburgh, great! If not, that’s ok too.
The way things are starting to unfold with teams like New England franchising Wes Welker for example, the potential suitors for Wallace’s services might be starting to dwindle. The media storm that Wallace started with that interview will gain more steam again next week if a new deal isn’t reached long term before then. Pittsburgh will use a first round draft pick tender on Wallace before the deadline, giving them the right of first refusal on any offer sheet he might get from another team. Whether or not they can match that remains to be seen, but like we’ve been saying this offseason started; getting another first round draft pick wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.