Why is Cleveland quickly becoming the rumored target of choice for the soon-to-be-former Steelers wide receiver? Miami, Cincinnati and Indianapolis all have a fortune in cap space as well, and you have to consider his former offensive coordinator in Arizona as a candidate.
With recent news from Steelers fans' favorite reporter, Jason La Canfora, that "many in the organization" feel wide receiver Mike Wallace will end up as a member of the Cleveland Browns, one has to look at the reasons behind why a team would look to sign Wallace to a long-term deal.
The reality is every team with available cap space would entertain interest if the price was right. The logic of new head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner "believe in a vertical-oriented passing offense" is far too convenient; I am unaware of an offensive coordinator who does not believe in the power of the vertical passing game.
And if you want to play that card, it seems Arizona head coach Bruce Arians - Wallace's offensive coordinator during his first three and best seasons - believes in a vertical passing game as well (the Cardinals are at a relatively manageable $3.3 million over the 2013 salary cap). Arians was committed to getting Wallace the ball, win, lose or not calling a draw.
Indianapolis probably wouldn't mind a guy who can take the top off of a secondary, and they are $43 million under the cap. The Browns are $45 million, and Miami, another team thought to factor into the Wallace Race, is under by $44 million.
Hell, LeBron spurned Cleveland for Miami, too, why wouldn't Wallace just take his talents there?
Because of Jimmy Haslam? C'mon...so what if the former Steelers minority owner now owns the Browns? It's not like he got to see Wallace more often than any personnel evaluator or scout. If anything, Haslam's time with the Steelers gave him far more examples of not pursuing the big money free agent than signing the high profile guy.
If the Steelers want to be worried about a specific team inking Wallace to a long-term deal, it should be Cincinnati. The Bengals lead the NFL with a Mike Brown-like $50 million in cap space, and the combination of A.J. Green and Mike Wallace roaming outside the numbers is scary - even if Andy Dalton is throwing them the ball. Fortunately, like waking up from a nightmare, we're jolted to reality when we remember the Bengals only sign free agents who are coming off significant incidents that drive their price down to the floor. You don't get to a point where your entire roster is barely more than half of the salary cap by paying players.
This isn't to suggest he won't end up in Cleveland, but there doesn't really appear to be anything indicating he's more likely to go there than anywhere else.
We've brought up the possibility in the past of tagging Wallace then trading him, but that's highly unlikely, considering the Steelers would need to shed roughly $23 million from the cap before March 12. The darkhorse of re-signing him to a long-term deal is still running at very long odds.
The smart money, though, is on the team willing to pay him the most. Sometimes it's not about loose connections with owners or overly simplistic notions of exclusive offensive concepts.