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New Stevie Johnson Contract Sets Floor For New Mike Wallace Contract

The Buffalo Bills have agreed to terms today with unrestricted free agent wide receiver Stevie Johnson on a new five-year, $36.25 million contract with $19.5 million guaranteed, according to Adam Schefter of With that contract now in place, we now have a solid starting point for what Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace will be expecting as far as his new deal goes.

The average year breakdown of the Johnson contract, which is very dangerous to use as a measuring stick until the full structure is released, comes to $7.25 million. In his first four seasons in the league, Johnson has totaled 170 catches for 2,189 yards to go along with 19 touchdowns. He also has comes with a pain in the ass number of 8 out of a possible 10. (That is not a stat kept by the NFL by the way.) Wallace on the other hand has compiled 171 catches for 3,206 yards to go along with 24 touchdowns in just three seasons in the league. His pain in the ass number is 1 or less. (Once again not a stat kept by the NFL.) Wallace also has a career yards per catch of 18.7 compared to 12.9 for Johnson. There is no doubt which receiver is better.

I posted back in the late part of February that I thought a new contract for Wallace would come in at about a $7.25 year average, but now we know it will be higher than that and will likely now come in closer to my original prediction of around $9 million a season. So that should be the range now that Wallace and his agent will be looking for. The big squabble now that we have a more solid range to work with is just how much of the contract is officially guaranteed and how it will be structured.

As Schefter said in his tweet, Johnson gets $19.5 million guaranteed and over $24 million in the deal\’s first three years. Not knowing the real numbers or structure, I could guess that the signing bonus was around $18 million and the first year base salary is $1.5 million. (Only a shot in the dark) That would make his 2012 cap hit around $5.1 million. That sounds about right, but could of course be a little bit lower if the base was less and the signing bonus was a little more.

Omar Khan and the Steelers like to structure a few of these new deals of late with second year roster bonuses in lieu of full signing bonuses. That means instead of the money being part of the guaranteed signing bonus, it is nearly guaranteed as long as the player is on the roster in year two. We saw this done most recently with the new contracts of LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons and I bet that Khan is trying to do this as well with Wallace and his agent Bus Cook. It makes the first year cap hit easier to swallow and gives wiggle room in the second year of being able to turn that roster bonus and a portion of the second year base salary into a signing bonus in a basic restructure to free up more cap room in the second year if needed.

I still like the chances of the Steelers getting a deal done with Wallace by the start of free agency and having the Johnson deal now in place could help the negotiations. Time as they say will tell as we have just about a week to go before free agency begins. In the mean time though, we can expect that Wallace will wear the first round tender of $2.7 million or so at the minimum.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Eric87

    that sounds about fair market price for wallace, id say somewhere between 7-9 mil. The guaranteed money should be around 19-20 mil. This doesnt seem to be a contract that is totally out of range. Hope they can get it done. Heard Bus Cook said starting point was 5yrs, 36mil, 19.5 guaranteed, so we shall see.

  • Eric87

    With Vincent Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, Braylon Edwards, Plax Burress, plus a bunch of other serviceable veteran wr’s getting ready to hit free agency, why would anyone want to spend the big contract and a 1st rounder on a small fast wr, when they are found easily in the draft. Teams forget that the Steelers draft players to fit their system, doesn’t always work out when they enter new systems. Don’t see anyone making a run at Wallace now, think he signs new deal before next week.

  • Emac2

    I really think the upcoming TV contract will begin to show itself this year in the size of free agent offers.

    I played with numbers the other day and it seemed we could go 5-50 on Wallace with a cap number of about 4.4 for the first two years when the cap is very tight and then really ugly numbers for 3 years. This seems doable but it still sends me back to my question from last week. Should they be looking into trades for him if it looks like he will get an offer the Steelers will not match so that we can keep him away from New England?

    I know this isn’t how the Steelers do business but the league is going to change dramatically with the new CBA and the TV contract. Waiting to see those changes before reacting will leave the team behind those that are proactive and it’s not especially difficult to predict a lot of the changes that are coming.

  • blount

    If Steve Johnson’s deal realistically pushes Wallace’s average yearly up close to $9M, then why not put the franchise tag on him? It would keep others out of the room while Omar and Mike negotiate on whether he’ll take slightly less and have to work for his money in exchange for longer term security. Seems fair to all involved, and it seems like Johnson’s contract has made the franchise tag less of a risk.

  • Eric87

    Even with the tv deals and other teams getting more room under the cap, the steelers will more than likely always operate the same way whether the league is somewhat changing or not. The Steelers will prob always be right around the cap or have to wiggle around a bit to be compliant, thats just the way it is for a smaller market team. The success of the Steelers will remain the same as always, draft players that fit our team and try to keep the ones who are productive and fit the “Steeler Way”. I doubt the Steelers ever really ever go after big free agents, and with the rookie salary cap pool, i think they will be all good.

  • SteelersDepot

    They don’t have room for the franchise tag right now under the cap for one thing and on top of that it would allow Wallace to hold the cards in negotiations knowing that that the Steelers would then have to lower his cap number ASAP.

  • Eric87

    that seems to be a good point, though I doubt that the cap number for wallace would be 9mil this season, they would work out a deal that is loaded more in years 3-5 imo.

  • Eric87

    Dave, do you hear anything about how the negotiations are going? Hopefully can get it done this week. Also, I heard that the NFLPA was trying to push to get the cap raised around another 10mil for this season, is this accurate and possible? that would help the steelers tremendously.

  • SteelersDepot

    Nothing concrete on either.

  • Eric87

    The trib is reporting that the Steelers have til march 13th to apply the tender to wallace, is that right? Thought it had to be by today or was that just the franchise tag? It also stated that teams can sign wallace to an offer sheet up til april 20th. So if no new deal is completed, then we would have to wait til the week before the draft to find out if anyone is going to sign wallace to an offer sheet?

  • SteelersDepot

    Tender deadline is today. Offer sheet deadline is the 20th of April, but no team will wait that long, if interested, in signing him to a offer sheet. Either he is a priority to another team or he isn’t.

  • Emac2

    Having a salary around the cap and not signing big free agents isn’t what I was referring to. I was referring to not making trades and just letting valuable assets go for nothing or for less then they might be able to get by not being stale. I’m referring to changing the way teams operate because the rules have changed.

  • Eric87

    well when talking about trades, I guess if the steelers were not intent on keeping him, thats probably the option they should have gone with. they prob. would have been able to get a few picks for him. I like the idea of using trades to get picks if you have a good idea that a player does not intend on returning, such as Holmes. I was quite angry that they traded him even though he had his antics, but in all reality he wasn’t coming back the next year. They did the right thing by trading him, though probably would have got more picks if he hadn’t been in trouble with the law, so yea I agree with what you are saying.

  • SteelersDepot

    CORRECTION: Just check the NFL Calender and restricted tender does indeed seem to be the 13th & not today. Apologies. Too many dates in my head. Today is just the franchise & transition tag deadline. ~ Dave

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