With the free agency period now well underway, the run on premier wide receivers seems to be over. The blood spilled however is still running and no one is paying more attention to it than Mike Wallace and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions received the biggest contract in wide receiver history this week when he signed for $132 million and a record $60 million guaranteed. Former Chargers’ wideout Vincent Jackson is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer after signing a 5-year $55 million deal with $26 million guaranteed.
Even Laurent Robinson, formerly of Dallas , signed a 5-year $32 million dollar deal with $14 guaranteed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Robinson isn’t exactly a household name but still commanded some big-time money.
What all this means for the Steelers and for Mike Wallace is that regardless of what happens in the upcoming 2012 season (where Wallace will earn $2.7 million) is that he quite possibly could have a huge windfall heading into 2013. You can argue all you want to about whether Wallace is on the same level as Johnson or Jackson or that he is better than Robinson. Even if he just falls into the middle he is pretty much guaranteed $40 million plus just to start out.
A lot of this of course depends upon him having a great year in 2012. While he was clearly a Pro Bowl player this past season, he averaged less than 50 yards per game receiving over the last eight games of the season. He must be more consistent over the long haul in order to command the type of dollars he is looking for in free agency.
Wallace is also in a tough spot because he was arguably over-shadowed by Antonio Brown who also went to the Pro Bowl and was clearly more consistent throughout the year. Brown doesn’t have Wallace’s straight-line speed but he is just as dangerous as Wallace and in more ways. Brown will also be a free agent after the 2012 season.
Enter the Steelers’ dilemma…. Pittsburgh is going to be faced with the prospect of having to sign both of these guys for 2013 which quite frankly means they will need to choose. If both have similar seasons as they did in 2011 the price tag for each will be substantial. Considering the free agent signings heading into this season and you’ll have two players who will command more than what the Steelers can pay.
As of right now, it looks like Wallace will indeed be in Pittsburgh for 2012. That price of a 1st round draft pick for signing him is just too great for the other 31 teams’ blood at this point. If things hold true, enjoy watching these two on the field together in 2012 because more than likely it will be the last time.