The free agency signing period is now less than three weeks away and that means Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace is very close to finding out which team, or teams, will be actively pursuing his future services.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated said in his most recent Monday Morning Quarterback article that Wallace is facing an intriguing free-agency period because he took a risk in not re-signing with Pittsburgh for $7 million a season last year. $7 million a season? That\’s the first time that we have seen a number that low reported and it is much lower than the $10 million a season that Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that the Steelers offered Wallace last July. That\’s quite a discrepancy, is it not?
Regardless of what amount Wallace was or wasn\’t offered, King wrote that Wallace seems to be scaring off some teams because they perceive he is going to be asking for the moon.
“I like Mike Wallace,” said one general manager with a receiver need, per the report by King. “But I\’m not paying him Vincent Jackson money. Not even close.”
Jackson, as King reminds us, signed a five year, $55,555,555.00 contract early on in free agency last offseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last March. That deal reportedly included $26 million in guaranteed money and was front loaded because the Buccaneers had a lot of salary cap space to work with in 2012 and 2013.
There are quite a few teams that have an exorbitant about of cap space this offseason, but King thinks that teams will be conservative this year during free agency despite 2013 being the first year of the four year minimum cash spending period that was part of the new CBA that was agreed upon in 2011. Teams do not have to spend 89% of the salary cap in cash in each of those four years, but they do have to be at that percentage by the end of the four year period. Logic tells you that teams will at least stay near that 89% number every year moving forward, but that is far from a guarantee.
Let\’s say that teams are not willing to pony up $11 million per season as King suggest. Will Wallace at least get somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 million a season? $10 million a season? I would say that those odds are good even though Wallace has free agency competition in the form of Greg Jennings, Wes Welker, Victor Cruz and Dwayne Bowe. Cruz is almost certain to remain with the New York Giants, however, while both Jennings and Welker are both three years or more older than Wallace is.
Wallace certainly didn\’t help his cause last season with his drops and admission that he lost focus at times in games because of the way that he was being used, but speed is speed, and his ability to take the top off of coverages can\’t be ignored. The Mississippi product more than likely can still produce a few 1,000 yard, 7 touchdown seasons and that is what several teams that have cap space can use.
So did Wallace make a mistake in turning down the Steelers offer last offseason? It all depends if you are using the $7 million a season that King reported or the $10 million number that Kaboly reported. Regardless, the Steelers have made plans to move on without their 2009 third-round draft pick. All of the moves that will be made over the course of the next few weeks to get them cap compliant will be made without budgeting in a first year cap hit of a new contract for Wallace. Baring something totally unforeseen, Wallace will be playing for a different team in 2013 and we will see just how scared other teams are to pay him very soon. Remember, all it takes is one.