December 21, 2014

Could Mike Wallace Be This Year’s DeSean Jackson?

Money makes the world go ’round, right? But sometimes money makes the football stop going ’round.

There could be trouble afoot in the Steel City. Money, in the form of a restricted free agent tender offer, has pitted the cash-strapped Steelers franchise against its very productive young receiver, Mike Wallace, who clearly does not want to wait until next year to find the financial end zone. Friday will be a pivotal day in the stare-down between team and player.

PFT’s Mike Florio explains the situation.

Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, a restricted free agent with a $2.7 million one-year tender offer, has two days to sign the deal or risk seeing his compensation plunge by more than $2 million.

The CBA gives the Steelers the right, on June 15 and June 15 only, to withdraw the tender and replace it with a 10-percent raise over Wallace’s 2011 pay. The end result would be a new tender of $577,500.

So the Steelers have a one-day opportunity on Friday to save a nice chunk of change — over $2.1M — in one simple, legal move. For a team playing footsie with the salary cap, that is a lot of found money that they could really use when roster cuts begin. Consider that Bobbie Williams signed with the Ravens for two years for only $2.9M.

But the move comes with risk. If Wallace isn’t eager to sign a contract for $2.7M, he certainly isn’t going to want to play the 2012 season for under $600K. Should the team call his bluff, Wallace will be left with two options: suck it up and play for cheap — in which case the Steelers could have an unhappy WR (a la DeSean Jackson) on their hands all year — or sit out.

Sitting out a year is a legitimate option for Wallace. He is young enough and talented enough that it is a low-risk move. Teams will be lined up to sign him for BIG money the moment they are able to talk to him. (The Redskins would probably try to open talks even before then.) And he would not risk injury for something like 10%-12% of the pay that Brandon Marshall will make this year.

I don’t know how this situation will end, but I know two things. 1) While Wallace sitting out would hurt the Steelers a lot, having him dial it back to reduce the risk of injury would be a big problem too. 2) Antonio Brown will be watching this play out with keen interest, knowing that he will likely be in the same position next year.