The majority of opinions in defense of Mr. Wallace, debate risk of injury vs. potential contracts. This makes a lot of sense; especially when considering how fast Willie Parker faded off the radar once he blew his motor. So let's explore what your optioins really are, at this point:
With little else to really talk about over the next several weeks, the hot topic in Steel Town is Mike Wallace's contract situation. Not that Mr. Wallace will read this, or give it much serious contemplation even if he did; but his is a realist fan's plea to put an end to the overhype. I've read a lot of different views on the situation, through front page articles and their enlightening commentaries that follow. Its tough when you agree with all of them. I believe this is the problem suffering both Kevin Colbert, and Mike Wallace. Like I said, with not much else to really think about, I've thought about this contract dispute quite a bit; and if you'll humor me for a few paragraphs, I'll show you why, no matter which way I look at it, I keep coming to the same conclusion. It's time to sign the tender, and get ready for Latrobe.
1) Holdout the entire 2012 season. -- This really is an option, though in your sake, Mike; I wouldn't recommend it. The whole point of your holdout, is about maximizing the potential of your next contract, both length and wealth. I realize you want a long term deal to defend against the possibility of injury; but your potential worth to the rest of the league would lose, more than it would gain because you were healthy; because teams will label you as a problem. Most coaches have enough problems already, but they don't want a guy they have to worry about; like whether you're going to demand a raise like this every time you end up having a better year, than you did the year before. Teams take chances on guys all the time, but I dare you to find another team that is more patient with injured players, when those players are part of the team; of the family. Manny Sanders can tell you. Limas Sweed can tell you. Jason Worilds. Casey Hampton. Rashard Mendenhall. You make sacrifices for them; they will make sacrifices for you. I think Parker would have been resigned as a reserve, had he not felt he could still lead the league in rushing. If you holdout for an entire season, you will not find the same compassion. I can see this only resulting in negativity for you, based on what it is you seem to really want the most. Security. So, let's try some others.
2) Holdout through the preseason, possibly joining the team as late as mid season -- From a character standpoint, this would seem just as detrimental as the last option's reasoning. This option carries demerits based on performance as well. Do you really think just studying the playbook is enough to be as productive as your holdout makes it appear to claim you are going to be? I've been watching Ben underthrow you, game after game; and this is when you guys are practicing together for entire offseasons, and practices. With your God-given abilities, timing with your Quarterback is the kingpin of your success. Outrunning everyone on the field doesn't score points, unless your QB is on the same page you are. Knowing that Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders are taking all of the first team snaps, aren't you concerned that they may outperform you this year, as the offense learns to adapt to a new offensive philosophy? If Arians was still Skipper of the Minnow, than I could understand your disinterest in the necessities of OTA's; because you already knew that offense. If your production tanks this year, because you struggle to get synchronized, how do you think the league will view your potential, when it comes to learning their offense? What happens if your learning curve is what causes you to get injured, after holding out this long? I know injuries are what worry you, which is why you hate the thoughts of considering your last option.
3) Sign the Tender, and report to camp on-time -- My first question: Which is probably larger, the 2.7 mil the Steelers want to pay you for this year, or the amount you would receive if this were the first year of your new deal. If the other players haven't explained this to you yet, let me share with you what I've learned about your management, over the past few years. The Steelers, when signing long term deals, pay on the back end. This is what had our cap number so high this year, but the timing actually couldn't have been better. Players, who possibly could have played as shells of their former selves, could have tried to hang on for a couple more seasons of glory; but the cap prevented this from holding back the growth potential of the youth movement in the locker room. Even if they offer you the long-term deal, you will find it full of performance clauses, with most of the deal's worth coming in the last 2 seasons. If you can play healthy until then, they will reward you with a "career contract" that will be structured much the same way, hoping you will retire before the contract comes to fruition. Sounds kind of shady, doesn't it. This is business. If you think every other team will deal with you any differently, than you need to take another look around. If you sign the tender and get hurt, those other teams won't want you anymore - Who buys a sports car, with no top gear? The Steelers would, because you signed the tender, and took that chance for them. If the money is really that important to you, you can shop yourself around, and probably find all the bling you could ask for, if you make it through another season unscathed; but the risk of venturing out into the ocean blue, is sometimes it swallows you.
The Front Office has made it clear through it's quotes in the media, they agree with your feelings about your worth. They understand that you really would like to play here, and that you want to be here long-term. They feel the same way. You really shouldn't take the fact that they didn't offer you the contract you wanted personally. It's a business. Those 2 other young receivers, the one's salivating at the thought of you holding out indefinitely; they want the same thing you want. Security. Antonio Brown was voted by your team to be its Most Valuable Player last season. Would you advise him to sit this year out, because he's still being paid per his rookie deal? He doesn't seem to mind. He is participating in team activities with the same fear/risk of injury that is weighing on your mind. So is Sanders. So is Cotchery. Mendenhall, considered by many to be a top tier back in this league, could be let go next season to make room on the payroll to keep the young money crew together. How fair do you think his situation is to him? He is going to start the season 6 games behind his teammates, in a year he has to play well enough to earn the spot he only lost because he got hurt. Running Backs don't get the same kind of patience as Receivers do. Most teams don't differentiate between the two. You are in a special situation, playing for a very special organization.
When guys like Polamalu are showing up for OTA's, that should show you the level of importance your teammates find in every moment. Success comes with dedication, not only to the task at hand; but to those who suffer that task with you. If you don't want to be here, then hold out. If you want to be named forever with the likes of Swann, Stallworth, Ward...sign your tender, be well paid for this upcoming season, and sign the respectable long term deal the team will offer you in the offseason. I think I speak for most of Steeler Nation when I say, we want you here. What we don't want, are distractions and speed bumps along our path to legend. You, and your agent, will try to make the best possible financial decision for your career; but keep in mind there is more to life than just the money. Nobody remembers Jerome Bettis or Hines Ward for the amount of money they made. They were embraced by this city for their dedication to its unselftish pedigree. You can be that guy. The choice is yours to make. I hope you choose wisely.