Dwindling Free Agent Market Could Speed Up Mike Wallace Negotiations

By Cian Fahey

After the San Francisco 49ers took a flier on Randy Moss early on in free agency, and now the New England Patriots now signing Brandon Lloyd, the Pittsburgh Steelers are all but certain to retain Mike Wallace for the coming season at his lowest RFA salary.

Now the focus for the Steelers shifts from the immediate future, to locking Wallace up for the long-term.

Many fans will be worried about the \’new market for receivers\’ after the deals for Vincent Jackson and Pierre Garcon inflated the market. It is completely possible that those deals will affect Mike Wallace\’s mind towards negotiations which will price him out of the Steelers\’ reach but don\’t expect the Steelers to be watching what the Washington Redskins or Tampa Bay Buccaneers are doing with any level of interest.

The Steelers work to their own tune. They don\’t care if Wallace wants Jackson money, they will have a set price for Wallace which they will let him leave at if he demands to go above it. For various reasons, the Steelers don\’t actually have to re-sign Wallace.

With Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders on the roster, Wallace doesn\’t have the leverage over the Steelers that he would have over other teams. While that does entice Wallace to negotiate elsewhere, that option is not available to him until at the earliest next year.

What Wallace must deal with however is the fact that the Steelers could prevent him from talking to other teams again next year with the franchise tag. Wallace cannot ransom the Steelers now that no other NFL teams have tried to sign him as a RFA.

He cannot ransom the team based on the deals of Jackson or Garcon because he\’s not stupid enough to try it. Therefore, those deals may have an affect on Wallace which actually benefits the franchise.

While Wallace will likely see his value go up, the idea that other players around the league are receiving huge deals while he plays for his lowly RFA tender will make him nervous. Wallace will be anxious to sign a long-term deal now after seeing Jackson, Garcon and DeSean Jackson sign for huge deals.

Obviously, Wallace will believe he is a better player than all of those listed above, and as such, won\’t feel fairly rewarded on the field this year.

Since he doesn\’t appear to be the type of player to holdout, and that isn\’t really an effective move anymore, Wallace would likely be happy to agree to long-term security now opposed to waiting a year or two to hit the open market.

The Steelers aren\’t so cash strapped that they cannot sign Wallace long-term in a suitably structured contract.

With Casey Hampton cutting his salary this year, and the extra cap thanks to the Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, the Steelers have enough wiggle room to give Wallace a back loaded deal.

This off-season\’s deal that most closely mirrored what Wallace should expect in a deal was the one received by DeSean Jackson. Jackson signed a $51 million deal with $15 million guaranteed. However, Jackson will only count $3 million against the cap this year.

Three million dollars is only slightly more than what the Steelers are paying Wallace in the tender.

If the Steelers sign Wallace to a five year deal, by the time he is making the bulk of his money, the team\’s cap situation could be a lot more considerate.

When you analyze DeSean\’s deal, Wallace\’s highest cap hit would peak in year three with a $12.5 million hit against the cap. He would be paid more up front than than this year\’s franchise tag with the signing bonus and base salary and would have the long-term security to entice him into signing the contract and playing it through.

At any time if Wallace was cut, the team would have to pay whatever is left of the $10 million proration in one hit against the cap, unless cut after June 1st in any year, but at Wallace\’s age, the team would only do that if his performance level dropped, he was severely injured or off the field issues emerged. So far, none of those things have been a problem.

Considering that Wallace, like any player, will want long-term security and will understand the risk of injury that comes with playing another season under an RFA tender, he should be more willing to negotiate with the Steelers prior to the start of this season opposed to waiting until next off-season.

You can follow Cian on Twitter at @Cianaf

  • kevin

    I think the Steelers should shoot for a 6 year deal. They can only prorate over 5 years for the signing bonus, but they will have more guaranteed money available to get it done, he will still only be 31 when he contract ends and they can easily restructure a roster bonus next year if they need to.

  • jpbucco

    SERIOUSLY?!? The 49ers signed a 35 year old WR with a history of quitting, to a one year low money deal…

    That makes you think that they will have no interest in Wallace? Considering that Morgan left, and Ginn is a free agent? Plus they still have lots of cap space..

    Please think about it…

  • Exactly. Moss is a complimentary piece, nothing more.

  • Eric87

    they won’t have the cap space if they sign Manning

  • Jb

    I really believe that Wallace’s play (tail off) in the last quarter of last season has hurt his big-money possibilities during this free agency. Wallace obviously is more naturally talented than was Hines Ward. But, Ward’s toughness, both mentally and physically, took his play to another level. I think even Santonio Holmes showed a greater toughness.

    I hear Wallace is a good team guy. But, one of the major parts of being a “team guy” is not just that your friendly with most everyone, or that you don’t give your coaches a hard time, or even that you haven’t shown up on any police arrest reports… it’s also how much “blood & sweat” are you willing to spend so that the team has the best possible chance to win. I’m not sure Wallace is there as yet.

  • SteelersDepot

    No Manning to the 49ers yet, but they grabbed them a Manningham.

  • Eric87

    San Fran just signed mario Manningham, prob puts them outta Wallace race. Prob only Cincy left now.

  • I said the other day, and I still think this: That FA and it’s pricing this year just about guarantees Wallace signs his RFA tender. But I don’t think it bodes well for his chances of signing a long term deal, unless he decides he wants the security now instead of waiting for the money next year. I hope I am wrong though.

  • Pete

    Signing Wallace? Are you kidding me? They will have to guarantee him 2 years salary (standard among the top free agent contracts) which will be in the neighborhood of $10-12 mil per year. That would be a $20-24 mil guarantee. When was the last time the Steelers threw that kind of money at a wide receiver? Linebacker? Sure. Defensive End? Sure. Safety? Sure. But not a wide receiver.

    You are right about leverage, The Steelers have to look at trying to sign either Wallace or Brown next year. No way they can keep both. I think Wallace is on a fast train out of Pittsburgh next year at this time. They will retain the services of Sanders and I’m betting Brown comes in a bit cheaper than Wallace. They’re not going to franchise Wallace and pay him $10.5 mil or $11 mil next year. No way.

  • Joe D

    Steelers are loving it now!!!
    I think Wallace is worth 5 years and 40million. I would not pay more than that.
    Steelers will RFA at 2.7 million of 2012…
    Franchise for about $10million in 2013…
    Let him walk in 2014!!!
    That is about 6.5 million per year!

  • While I agree the Steelers won’t overpay to retain Wallace long term, it does NOT mean that Wallace will just fold and sign the 1yr RFA deal. He does have leverage, in that the Steelers only have two WRs on the roster, and he has time on his side, for now. That no other team has offered Wallace yet doesn’t mean they won’t – teams have until mid April to present RFAs with an offer sheet. Yes, NE and SF were two possible teams to offer Wallace, but there are others, including Cincy, NYJ, and Tenn, that have plenty of money to spend, and room on their rosters for a player like Wallace. With all of the “big name” WR FAs signed, they can wait until just before the draft to consider giving up their 1st rd pick to offer Wallace a deal the Steelers can’t match. So, if anything, Wallace remaining unsigned is holding the Steelers up from pursuing other FAs one, because if they spend elsewhere, its taking money away from Wallace’s potential pot, and two, potential Steelers FAs keep coming off the board.

  • jpbucco

    Manningham DOES eliminate the 49ers I believe, however there aren’t any free agent WRs left…the barn door isn’t closed yet….

  • Nolrog

    The big problem with Wallace and the reason why he’s not getting offers is the other team would have to give him a big money contract and a first round pick as well. In a year that had a lot of good WR FAs, that was never going to happen. Teams he was linked to have now made other arrangements.

    The difficultly with franchinsing Wallace is that (assuming he doesn’t sign long term and is back for 1 year) then you have all 3 of your WRs as free agents (though Brown and Sanders would be RFA, no?)

    This is one of the reasons why I think they’ll go after a WR in the middle of the draft this year, to try and spread out their singings.

    I think it’s fair to offer Wallace something between the tender and the franchise. That helps him by giving him more this year and helps the team by holding the overall contract down.

    I still think we’ll see Wallace back on a 3-4 year deal. I wouldn’t be surprised if they extended either Brown or Sanders now as well.