Why I Think A New Deal Will Be Reached With Mike Wallace Before March 5th

With the 2012 NFL combine getting started on Wednesday, I thought now would be the perfect time to give my gut feeling thoughts on what will happen with Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace.

I have talked extensively about the options the Steelers have in regards to placing a first round tender or using the franchise tag on Wallace, but as I mentioned in the podcast last Friday, the best case solution is to just have him signed to a long term deal before having to use either of those on him.

Using just a first round tender is mighty risky, even though it returns a first round pick as compensation. The franchise tag of $9.4 million would buy the Steelers time and an extra layer of protection in an additional first round pick, but that is time the Steelers do not have in regards to the salary cap. They can not risk simply placing the franchise tag on Wallace and he holding the Steelers hostage to get a new deal done that might be well over what they have his market value at. If they had the extra cap room to play with they could do this, but they don\’t and several other roster decisions and restructures hang in the balance right now. March 5th is the deadline for applying both tenders and the franchise tag on free agents, and March 13th the Steelers need to be compliant with the cap. That is not enough time to play with a franchise tag.

While the talk of both the tender and the franchise tag as been fun to discuss, we all seem to forget what team president Art Rooney II said in his end of season interviews with the media that signing Wallace to a long-term deal is a priority. When he says things are a priority, I believe him.

If you go back a few seasons ago when Casey Hampton was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, Rooney II said in his after the season talk with the media that the line for the Steelers re-signing their own free agents forms behind Hampton. They did have the franchise tag to use on him as a last resort, but Hampton agreed to a new three-year contract on February 25, 2010, that was the second day of the 2010 NFL combine.

So here we are now in a similar scenario with Wallace. Many might ask why wouldn\’t Wallace and his agent Bus Cook play a little hard ball and try to force the Steelers to use the franchise tag on him and let it be the Steelers problem to get a new deal done if they really want to protect him in free agency. The answer is that if the Steelers use the franchise tag, Wallace is almost assurely theirs for the year and his market price could go down with an off season or god forbid a season ending injury. That $9.4 million he would make in 2012 could end up being his last big pay day. So basically until the Steelers use a tender or a tag on Wallace, they still have a little leverage in negotiations. Add on top of this that general manager Kevin Colbert threw out the notion pretty easily to the media that they were not ruling out using the franchise tag on Wallace to keep him. You think that was a message? I do.

You have to imagine that both Colbert and chief contract negotiator Omar Khan have already had a few preliminary talks with Cook and the NFL combine is a perfect time for everyone to come together and hammer out the final details of a new deal. I firmly believe that both sides truly want to get a deal done and I firmly believe that Wallace wants to remain in Pittsburgh as well.

While we are not yet in the 11th hour, the clock is certainly ticking down and it would not surprise me one bit to see a deal reached over the course of this next week. I originally estimated that the market value of Wallace would average out to be about 9 million a season, but after looking around at some comparative numbers and contracts from around the league, I think an average of $7 million is really more realistic. In fact it would not surprise me if it was a contract similar to the one that Ike Taylor signed last season. That deal was for four years and totaled out at $28 million. It included a $7.25 million signing bonus and a believed roster bonus of $750 thousand as well. The first year guaranteed money ended up being $9.25 million when you add in his $1.25 million base salary. That $9.25 million just happens to almost be the price of the wide receiver franchise tag this year. Maybe it will be 4 years $30 million at best, but that is where I think the numbers will come in at for Wallace.

If the Steelers come away from the combine without a new deal, then it might be time to panic a little more, but when Rooney II says a player is a priority, I believe him. My gut tells me we will not have to worry about a first round tender or a franchise tag as I firmly believe a new deal gets done before March 5th.

  • I think you were closer with the 9 mil unless we get a hometown discount of some sort.

    There is so much cap room throughout the league and that is exploding even further in two years. If I ran a team with cap room I would hit the restricted market hard and try to tie up young high end talent at today’s prices assuming that we see a ton of inflation in a couple of years when the cap goes up.

    All that cap money and the new draft pick rules mean a lot more money going to a lot fewer players which means massive inflation. I doubt it waits until 2014 given the ability to defer cap hits.

  • SteelersDepot

    There are already some rumblings from a few of my league contacts that say cap could increase $10 million in 2013. So keep your fingers crossed that is true.

  • Wallace isn’t worth 9 million to us in our current cap shape, and with a first round draft pick in play. At least not in a long term contract.

  • Jeb064

    Im thinking a 5 year 40 million dollar with a 10 million dollar signing bonus should get it done. When you see guys like Holmes signing 5 year 45 and Vincent Jackson probally getting a 5 year 50 million on the market than getting Wallace to a deal like this would be a steal in my opinion cause he could easily ask for more than the other two wrs.

  • Ricardisimo

    Although no one is suggesting he will get Fitzgerald numbers, he can clearly do much better on the open market than what the Steelers can offer him. What you are suggesting is nothing less than a hometown discount, and we have no reason to believe that to be anywhere in Wallace’s brain. He is gone.

  • Tom

    Anyone have ideas as to why Wallace’s production fell off after the middle of the year?

  • Bleebo77

    Losing Wallace would certainly be a blow to the offense, but part of me is still persuaded by the idea of getting a 1st rounder for him and letting him go. Three picks in the top 100 would allow Pittsburgh to get some good (and cheap) prospects are areas of need (OG, NT, ILB), and it would keep their cap situation much more manageable. They could also extend Cotchery and go into the season with Brown, Sanders, Cotchery, maybe Ward, and some draft picks or undrafted FAs. No true #1 WR, but teams have been known to do well without a true #1. I’m more concerned about Pitt’s other needs, and with a cap, they cannot keep every star and need to be constantly adding quality, cheap starters alongside the stars.

  • John B.

    double teams. also its funny watching CBs line up 10 yards away from him.

  • John B.

    Bens ankle could be considered a factor too

  • ed52

    Message to Steeler front office: Trade Wallace to the Vikings now for their 1st round pick (#3 overall). I don’t know how…just do it. Make it happen. This is why you make the big bucks. I want Matt Kalil at left tackle next year and for many years to come. I want protection for Ben’s blind side. I need this much more than I need a speedster @ ~$9mill a year.

  • Lou

    Let’s reel it in here a minute, people. The only teams that seem likely to make a play for Wallace have first rounds picks BEHIND us, which might as well be second round picks. I don’t see anyone giving up two first rounders.

    He has proven he can ball and he hasn’t even hit his peak yet. Keeping Wallace, AB, and Sanders (if he can stay healthy) makes all three of them better. Swing Gilbert over to LT, draft OL early, and roll with a stable of young RBs.

    Ultimately, I think we’ll pick up Poe in the first round and press on with a patchwork OL. That seems to be our M.O. But given the choice between him and a bona fide OL at the same spot, I’m not sure who I’d choose. Moving Hood over to NT for the year isn’t a great solution, but it would be temporary until next year, and you get a quicker return on Heyward that way.

    Regardless, my point is that I love defense as much if not more than the next person, but the reality is that it’s a passing league and top WR aren’t going to get any cheaper. Letting Wallace walk takes the top end off our offense in exchange for what exactly? It’s unclear whether our recent LB picks will pan out. And it’s hard to imagine our OL situation getting worse. Besides, Ben has already proven he can take a sack and the way he runs around, he’d still take sacks behind some of the best linemen in the league.

  • Jollyrob68

    The team in front of use that I worry about is CINCY because they have two first rounders. Team I want to trade with is Philly. They have the 15 pick or two second round picks. Everyone though New England would suck without Randy Moss and the got better. The need someone who can go deep but it doesn’t have to be a star.
    I’d rather sign Antonio Brown now and sign Jerricho Cotchery.

  • Jollyrob68

    Wallace isn’t worth that much. He doesn’t fight for the ball or attack it at its highest point. He waits for it to come down to him. I’d like to get a more Physical Receiver.

  • Dave

    Couple thoughts here –
    1. When was the last time the Steelers let a big time free agent walk? Chad Brown back in 1996? They find a way to keep the guys they want to keep.
    2. It would be stupid to keep Kemoatu, Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Foote, Farrior, Hines Ward, etc and let a 25 year old Pro Bowler walk, and the Steelers aren’t stupid. In Colbert/Kahn we trust.