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.