The Pittsburgh Steelers have made Mike Wallace wait on getting a new long-term deal, so now Wallace is making the Steelers wait. He didn’t show up to OTAs this week and doesn’t plan to show up until he gets a long-term deal.
Wallace, over the course of the last two seasons, has been one of the NFL’s best wide receivers. He would have more of a leadership role this season now that Hines Ward is retired. The team hired Todd Haley to be the team’s new offensive coordinator and will need to implement a new offense. Wallace is missing a lot of key time.
Could he hold out and force the Steelers to trade him? He is holding all of the cards, but does Pittsburgh have enough cap space to give into his demands?
Before I get into the fiscal details of what Mike Wallace would get if he signs his one-year tender and what he wants long term, let me tell you his agent’s name. Wallace is represented by Bus Cook, who most famously dragged out every Brett Favre negotiation. The Steelers are playing with fire when they negotiate with one of Cook’s players.
Wallace is a restricted free-agent. If another team wants to sign him, he is free to do so, but that team would give up a first-round draft pick. His one-year tender is $2.74 million and he has yet to sign it. He wants a long-term deal in the neighborhood of Larry Fitzgerald’s mega-deal he signed last year. That deal was for $120 million dollars over eight years…Pittsburgh lacks that kind of cap space. They can’t offer anywhere near those numbers. Wallace could sign the one-year tender, play out the year and become an unrestricted free-agent after this season. He would be risking a lot to do that, since injuries happen so frequently in today’s NFL.
Wallace must sign at some point this season, since he must accrue service time in order to reach unrestricted free-agent status. This is similar to the situation that Vincent Jackson was in with the San Diego Chargers in 2010.
A lot of football experts thought that the Steelers would trade Wallace before the NFL Draft. Pittsburgh didn’t get the kind of deal that they expected and held onto him. Both sides say they want to work on a long-term deal, but it is turning into a waiting game. The Steelers can’t fiscally give him the deal that he wants and not many other teams could swing the cap space either.
The Steelers offense in 2012 is rumored to look a lot different. Former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians had a pass-happy system, but ownership wants to get back to running the ball. Haley is known for his passing attack while he was on the coaching staff of the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys. He was the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs the previous three seasons and was fired after the final game in 2011. Ben Roethlisberger has already commented that the offense is 90% different.
The Steelers could still suit up a nice receiving corps without Wallace. Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, and recently-signed Jerricho Cotchery at wide receiver with Heath Miller and Leonard Pope as your tight-end tandem. The running back group will be getting a lot of carries. Rashard Mendenhall is coming off an injury and will need some carries from Isaac Redman and high-draft pick Chris Rainey. Jonathan Dwyer and John Clay are in camp and are battling for a roster spot.
It is only a matter of time before Mike Wallace and the Steelers come to an agreement. One of the sides will lose in the deal. The Steelers have dealt with disgruntled wide receivers in the past, Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes. Wallace doesn’t have the on and off-the-field issues as Holmes or Burress, but know when to cut their losses. They can’t afford to tie up a large portion of their salary cap on a wide receiver in a “run first” offense.