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