The Threat Of The Franchise Tag Next Year On Mike Wallace

I have been asked if the threat of the franchise tag being placed on restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace is real and if indeed the Pittsburgh Steelers would indeed go that route if no long term deal is reached, or if Wallace is not traded by the start of the regular season.

The key word here is, “threat”. That threat is just another aspect of the leverage that the Steelers have right now with Wallace. To even get to that point though, Wallace would have to sign his restricted tender and get his six games in to qualify to be an unrestricted free agent. If he doesn\’t, he remains a restricted free agent and the whole process that we saw this past offseason would start all over again, with Wallace being tendered at a first round level.

If Wallace indeed got his accrued year in this year, would the Steelers still tag him though? This far out, that is a very difficult question to answer, and it is because of available cap space I perceive them having next offseason, combined with all of the various options that Omar Khan will have to make. Let\’s say that the franchise tag on a wide receiver ends up being $10 million. That $10 million would be the cap hit in 2013 should Wallace sign that franchise tender. Once that tender is signed, Wallace gains back some leverage in negotiations, as the Steelers certainly need that cap hit on him to be lower in 2013, if at all possible.

I will not rehash an entire previous posts I have done that takes a look ahead to the 2013 salary cap situation the Steelers face, but in short, I speculate that James Harrison will either be released or asked to take a huge salary cut, much like Casey Hampton did this year, and that the contracts of both LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons will once again be restructured in an effort to lower their 2013 cap hits. There is always the bank of Ben Roethlisberger they can go to with either a restructure or an extension that can free up cap space as well. Can Khan somehow fit a $10 million hit on Wallace under the 2013 cap? It\’s possible, yes,with some big time cuts, but both he and Kevin Colbert will certainly tell you that they hope it doesn\’t get that far.

Back to the threat. Should Wallace indeed get franchised, and only get his six games in this season to qualify to be an unrestricted free agent, that means that he runs the risk of earning less than $12.742 million over the course of two years. Plus, he will be two years older as well. Is that really something that he really wants to look forward to? I doubt it.

We will have to see how all of this trade talk plays out that was generated by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette last night. I have made my thoughts known on that earlier today, but I also have learned over the years not to speak in absolutes when it comes to the Steelers. Do I think that we will get to a point where the Steelers have to make a decision on whether or not to put the franchise tag on Wallace? No, I do not, but the threat of that tag is very powerful right now in negotiations to say the least.