Putting Franchise Tag On Mike Wallace Makes Most Sense For The Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace is currently a restricted free agent and team president Art Rooney II said in his 2011 season wrap up interview that signing Wallace to a long term contract would be a priority. The Steelers could just place a first round restrictive tender on Wallace, but that would not prevent other teams from realistically trying to sign him to a big offer sheet, which could place the Steelers in a tough position of matching the offer, especially if there were any poison pills in any of the offer sheets. Colbert did not hint to whether it would be an exclusive or non-exclusive tag, the second of which requires two first round picks as compensation.

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert told reporters on Monday that there is a strong possibility that they would put the franchise tag on Wallace instead of the first round tender. Normally in the case of the Steelers, they usually only use the franchise tag on unrestricted free agents and not restricted, but Wallace is regarded as one of the top wide receivers in the league now after just his first three seasons, and placing the franchise tag on him realistically ensures he stays in Pittsburgh at least for the 2012 season. The new franchise tag amounts for the wide receiver position is expected to be around $9.4 million, which is down from 11.4 million in 2011 and I have speculated previously that a new contract for Wallace will average out to be about $9 million a season, which is right on par with the franchise tag amount.

By putting the franchise tag on Wallace, the Steelers will have time to negotiate a long term deal with Wallace leading up to the start of the 2012 season and it ensures that Wallace will not be on the market realistically even if it is a non-exclusive tag. The Steelers obviously feel that they stand a good chance of losing Wallace with just a regular first round restricted tender, despite getting a first round pick as compensation. Had they still had the availability of the first and third round tender at their disposal, that might have been a better course of action, but that went away with the new CBA.

The only problem with the exclusive franchise tag being $9.4 million is that the Steelers have to be able to accommodate it in their Rule of 51 salary cap once it is applied, much like the way they had to with linebacker LaMarr Woodley last year. This is one of the many reasons that Colbert stated on Monday that there was a lot of work left to do as far as the cap goes even after several contract restructures have done and a few players have been released. Basically that means we can look forward to a few more players being released and a few more announcements of restructures in the new future. None of which is surprising.

ETA: Word has surfaced that the poison pill clauses are no more. Details here.

  • AC

    bring on Omar.

  • With the needs and salary issues this team has, I would probably be fine with using the first round tender. Brown is a more versatile WR overall, and getting a first for Wallace if a team did offer him big money and they didn’t match wouldn’t be all that bad.

  • Chrispaciello

    Just to clarify, they would get that teams #1 right? If they signed him to a tender? Meaning if it was the colts they would get the #1 overall, and if it’s the Pats it would be the 31st pick. A big difference of players depending on who would offer them a contract. I’d be afraid a team like the Pats would sign him given they have an extra #1 already and it’s a big weakness of theirs. Plus is strengthens a big rival. Tough to risk that.

  • That is correct, BUT, I am pretty sure it would be NEXT year’s number 1, not this year’s, which makes it an even bigger risk.

  • Jollyrob68

    My issue isn’t the pats signing him its The Bengals signing him. He’d go to a division rival and we’d get the 21st pick. I’m all for taking that chance because they could use the extra round 1 pick to reload and can get a more physical WR.

  • Drknow77

    Have to keep Wallace, makes the offense that much more versatile and prolific which is where the NFL is now. What needs to be addressed is the Offensive Line and the cornerback position, NOW not later! The Steelers are one or two players away from dominating the league, barring all the untimely injuries that plagued last year.

  • SteelersDepot

    Nope it is the current year if it takes place prior to the draft. No team is going to wait long to try to sign Wallace to an offer sheet if they are after him.

  • Joe D

    Which is why Ward has to be cut!!! Retire Hines!!!

  • AC

    anyone if you’re NFL GM? is essentially giving up the 25-31pick of 1st round worthy of Stealing Wallace from Steelers?

  • Daddeeekip

    Agree with you Steve, the Steelers have found mid to late round picks and have gotten good production from these WRs. Take the no. 1 get a OL and NT in the 1st or a OL and maybe Trent Richardson

  • Ty019

    I love mike wallace but if we could secure 2 1st round pick i would be ok with allowing him to walk. We have 3 young receivers and we will not keep all of them. 2 1st round picks is good compensation for mike wallace who I don’t believe pittsburgh can keep past another year or 2 anyway. we don’t pay receivers 9 million dollars a year. We fired an pass happy successful Off Cordinator in order to bring balance back to the team. This is by far the best option.

  • SteelersDepot

    No team will touch Wallace for the cost of 2 first round picks.

  • I don’t know, the Skins offered 2 firsts for Chad Ochocinco a few years back when he was already at the end of his prime. Wallace is just hitting his. If anyone offers that, they have to take it, IMO.

  • Chrispaciello

    After thinking it over, I’d use the 1st round tender. Save about $7M. If we keep him great. If we lose him we get a #1, and this year is supposedly a deep draft for WRs. I’d be willing to take the risk. The potential savings is a lot when you consider we would get pretty good compensation if we lose him.

  • kevin

    Wallace is a top-3 receiver. What is the likelihood that a 25-31 pick in the 1st will be a better player over the first five years of his deal.

  • kevin

    That is silly. I don’t get why Steelers fans cannot understand how good Wallace really is. You are okay with losing him for a first? Would you give up Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson for a first? The advanced stats say that Wallace is in that class. I would rather the Steelers have let Timmons walk this year.

  • Kevin

    None of those players will likely ever be as good as Mike Wallace is today, and he is only a 3rd year player. You can’t give him up for potential unless you have no other choice. Also, Brown is not in Wallace’s class as a receiver.

  • kevin

    The Steelers should be pass happy with the weapons they have. They don’t need balance, they need situation appropriate playcalling.

  • Wallace is not on the level of any of them. He is a bigger deep threat, but he is nowhere close to the route runner or over the middle guy that any of those three are.

    I would rather lose Timmons than Wallace as well, but for different reasons.

  • Thanks for clarifying.

  • Brown is almost as fast, and a better route runner. The difference isn’t as great as you seem to think.

  • kevin

    I have advanced statistics to back up my opinion. What do you have?

  • kevin

    Check out footballoutsiders with their wide receiver rankings. In 2010 Wallace was the best wide receiver based upon statistics. He was at the top this year as well. Also, check out KC Joyner’s breakdown of Wallace by route depth. Wallace consistently outperforms all but a few receivers at every depth level. If he is not a good route runner, don’t you think that would show up in his ypc at short and medium depth. Wallace is indeed on the level of those receivers, but Steelers fans only want to point out his flaws.

  • kevin


    I will trust that over whether you think he is a good route runner or “over the middle guy” or whatever purely subjective term you can think of

  • You are comparing one year to a whole career. Wallace is getting better as a route runner, but he is not on the level of those guys. He relies more on his speed than any of them do to get separation. Your eyes should tell you that. It’s not focusing on flaws, it is being realistic. He HAS to improve in route running, separation, and handling double teams to be in that top tier. Look at how much he struggled when teams doubled him and opened things up for Brown.

    I do think he is a top 5-7 WR, but not in with the top 3. They are all complete, Wallace isn’t yet. Those metrics actually support that argument. And thus he isn’t worth 9 million. The WR position in general just isn’t that valuable. You can’t name me one big name WR that was the difference between a team winning and losing a SB in recent memory.

  • Over the last 9 games when teams really started keying on Wallace, he broke 80 yards just once (82 against St. Louis) and scored 3 TDs (2 against Cincy).

    In that same period:
    Calvin Johnson did is 6 times (twice over 200 and twice over 100) with 6 TDs in 5 games.

    Fitz did it 4 times (all over 100) for 6 TDs despite having no QB.

    Andre Johnson only played in three games in that span with no QB and a busted knee, and he still broke 80 once (97).

    All of those guys routinely face double coverage just like Wallace was, and put up better numbers than Wallace. So tell me again how he is in their league.

  • kevin

    You have made the criteria too restrictive. Do you remember Arizona in the 08 playoffs? Larry Fitzgerald got that team to the SB and nearly won it had Ben and Santonio not pulled that game out. They did that against a team with one of the best defenses of the past 30 years. This is the game of football. Outside of the QB position, how has any one player been the difference between a team winning and losing?

    Wallace has 1 year as the best receiver in football, 1 year as a top 5 receiver and his rookie year as a top 20 receiver. That is pretty darn good. Brown certainly did not do that. As for Calvin Johnson, he had a significant lull during the middle of the season, then turned it one again. I can find a several game stretch where Wallace blows away Johnson too. You are cherry-picking Wallace’s worst games rather than looking at the entire body of work, which is not a valid argument due to sample size issues.

    Regardless, Megatron was better than Wallace this season, as was Jordy Nelson and Victor Cruz. My eyes tell me that Wallace can get even better, because he catches the ball too low at times and has been out of position (Super Bowl). The stats say that he is elite and in the class of Fitzgerald and the Johnsons. Look at his ypc at all depth levels, look at his ypc in general, look at his catch rate. Your argument against Wallace being elite would also be an argument against Arian Foster as well. I am pretty sure that he is a top-3 running back in this league despite few years.

    Your argument is essentially one based upon your feelings and perceptions, but you are not backing it up with facts that can be verified.

  • kevin

    Only CJ put up better stats for the year. None of them did it last year. As a rookie, he was a top 20 receiver, which is rare. You are not giving him enough credit. Certainly, there are things that he can work on, just as CJ had some years in which he was highly inconsistent from game to game.

    I have told you how he is in their league, but you refuse to look at the entire body of work because it does not support the decision that you have already made.

    I have the advanced stats for his entire body of work to back me up, you have a cherry-picked sample of less than 15% of his career.

  • His stats as a whole put him exactly where I said he is, in the 5-8 range. Not top three like you say he is.

    I love Wallace, but take off your homer glasses and open your eyes to where he really ranks, and more importantly to what he is worth.

  • Only CJ put up better stats this year? Wallace was not in the top ten in receptions, targets, yards, TDs, plays of 20+ yards, Y/G, YAC, or 1st downs this year. He had the same number of TDs (8) as a 34 year old Plaxicon Burress that hadn’t played in three years. Rob Gronkowski arguably put up better numbers than Wallace this year. You are too stuck on advanced metrics to see the forest for the trees.

    Wallace IS NOT a top 3 WR, probably not top 5, and should not be paid like one. He will get better, and may become one in time, but teams like the Steelers don’t get to where they are by paying on what a player MIGHT be. They pay based on what he is.

  • The thing about advanced metrics that you are forgetting is their value is entirely subjective. What FBO calls a telling stat, others say is useless and vice versa. At some point, you have to look at the basics.

  • Where is CJs “significant lull”? You mean the 5 game stretch where he only put up 300 yards and 1 TD? That is still better than the vast majority of WRs in the league, and not far off of Wallace’s average numbers.

    AS for the 08 playoffs, you are confusing having a great game or two with being the difference. No team has ever gone from being right on the cusp to being a SB winner by investing heavily in the WR spot. The fact that guys like Tim Brown, TO, Randy Moss, Chad Johnson and a host of others that were at various times considered top WRs have zero SB rings between them, while guys like Deion Branch have several says a lot about the relative value of the position. WR is one of the biggest glory positions, but one of the least important overall. You can win big with a good team and average WRs, not so much the other way around. Look at the VALUE, not the player.

  • kevin

    If you have an objection, then criticize the methodology to show why they don’t work. Your indication that some call it useless is just as useless. Also, out of those receivers that you pointed out as the best, only CJ had better stats. As indicated, Nelson and Cruz did have better stats by advanced metrics and traditional metrics.

    I can say that you are too stuck on your feelings to back up your opinions with actual facts, but that would be about as useless as your statement in the post. It is clear that we will agree to disagree, but please take the time to study the advanced metrics and if you find a flaw point it out. I am sure that they would love to update their formula in that case.

  • kevin

    Your intent to be an anti-homer is more significant than any homer bias. I pointed you to the statistics that back up my opinion. You cite a couple game stretch by other opinions while ignoring his body of the work. In three years, he was top 20, number 1 and top 5 for advance metrics. Other traditional metrics broken down support him being an elite receiver, but that is not good enough because you “feel” that is not the case. The only one seeing this through tinted glasses is you. If you don’t understand the metrics, that is fine, but your feelings do not cut it for rational debate nor do your ad hominem arguments. Perhaps you should study that so that you learn not to make those mistakes. I am done with such silliness since you dismiss readily available and verifiable facts with attempting to refute them.

  • kevin

    I am not going to bother to argue against straw men. Argue the point or don’t bother responding.

  • Continue to ignore the basics in favor of advanced metrics, which are only valid when built on the foundation of basics. He was not top ten in any basic statistical category. You keep ignoring that.