With Polamalu Out Of The Way, Wallace Becomes Top Priority In 2012

The Steelers proved cash flow and the salary cap was not an obstacle this season and they managed to lock up several key components of their defense during the 2011 offseason as well as succesfully locking up their right tackle spot for several years to come. While the list of players that needed to be re-signed or extended was long and daunting this past offseason, it looks to be short and less intimidating next offseason.

I listed the Steelers 2012 free agents the other night and with Troy Polamalu now being scratched off the list today, it leaves wide receiver Mike Wallace as the highest priority free agent right now. Wallace will be a restricted free agent however and that means at worst he can be restricted tendered at the highest level and it should be enough to keep teams away as it would cost them a 1st round draft pick to sign him away. The projected amount last year on this type of tender was over $3 million a season and we will not know the true 2012 tender amounts for some time now. As long as Wallace stays healthy and keeps his head screwed on tight, I see no reason why he would not get a new contract this far out. Regardless, he will be a Steeler in 2012 baring any unforeseen circumstances. Mark it down.

The remaining restricted free agents, as I mentioned in the previous article will all likely be tendered at the lowest level. The wildcard is cornerback Keenan Lewis, but he would have to see considerable playing time and really have a big season to require anything more than a low level restricted tender. The exclusive free agents, Steve McLendon and Isaac Redman, are locks to return as long as they do not suffer a career ending injury.

As far as the unrestricted free agents go, Jerricho Cotchery might be considered a mid grade priority going forward depending on his health and quality of play this year. His status might be tied to what happens with Hines Ward as well. Ward said this past offseason that he wants to play two more seasons, but I could see him retiring, especially if the Steelers win it all this year. Regardless, Cotchery will not get crazy money if re-signed and it is not worth worrying about at this time.

A few of the other restricted free agents might be brought back for the veteran minimum, but that all depends on the level of their play. Don\’t hold your breath right now as that list will sort itself out over the coming year.

Outside of the free agents, Rashard Mendenhall, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Stevenson Sylvester will be entering their final year under contract in 2012. I really doubt that Mendenhall gets an extension, but Brown, Sanders and Sylvester certainly could qualify for new deals and it shouldn\’t cost and arm or a leg to get a few of those down. Before any of that happens though, the Steelers will need to manage their pending cap hell that looks to await them next offseason. All of that should be managed by the time training camp starts however.

The Steelers of course will have the franchise tag at their disposal next offseason, but looking at the free agents right now, I just can\’t see them having to use it now that Polamalu will not require it.

  • @K2TheIzzo

    Why wouldnt Mendenhall get any extension?

  • SteelersDepot

    Let him play out his final year in 2012 and then franchise him if need be in 2013. Running backs are pretty fungible and show wear and tear faster. Not saying he WON’T be, I would just bet against it right now. Lots of carries between now and then.

  • I want to see what the guys behind Mendenhall can do, before deciding to extend him or not.

    I think that Redman could shoulder the load, at least long enough to develop another stud RB. The market for RB’s took a big jump this offseason. If Mendenhall is looking for a big contract, it will have to be elsewhere. Besides, the 2013 draft looks like it’s loaded with talent at RB.

  • Bill

    Looking forward to more spending cap analyses in the future. Wonder what kind of savings if players like Hines Ward, Aaron Smith, James Farrior retires and Bryant McFadden is let go if the younger CBs develop enough. Also, any update to your Salary Cap 2011 page after the final cuts and contract extensions for the season?

  • Joe D

    The Polamalu deal was “really” a 3 year extension.
    2012, 2013, 2014… they already had a 2011 deal.
    But, Steelers got the hometown discount with Troy!! Great for all parties involved.
    I see Hines retiring after this season regardless of the results. With 3 young guns… it will be difficult for Hines to get play time… but he wants the 1000 catches and Steelers should try to get it for him provided he retire at year end.

  • SteelersDepot

    Sorry this is wrong. The signing bonus that was remaining to be amortized stays and the 2011 base rolled into new deal. 4 year deal.

  • Joe D

    But it’s ONLY for 3 more years…
    Already had Troy for 2011..
    Semantics with where the money will be put for Salary Cap stuff…
    but it’s ONLY 3 more years…

  • Shags Cents

    Dwyer is a stud IMO…plus Mendy probably wont go anywhere anyways…he is still young and doesnt have a lot of mileage

  • NW86

    I kind of disagree that Hines would retire even without a super bowl. I realize the young guys are taking away catches, but I still think he moves the chains better than anyone when the game is on the line. The only one under contract for 2012 that I see retiring would be Farrior (Smith and Batch’s contracts are up anyway).

    Battle and maybe McFadden are the only easy cuts.

    Unfortunately, those 3 things alone won’t get them anywhere near the salary cap so there will be some tough decisions to be made.