It's been too long since I've last written for the wonderful patronsof Behind the Steel Curtain. As well all know, Mike Wallace and his status with the organization are up in the air right now, and as I type this, the fact that Mike Wallace remains "tagless", means that he will undoubtedly be given a first round tender, worth approximately $2.7 million.What happens next is anyone's guess, but if history is anything to go by, then we may have an issue right?
LeBron might not be the best example. Cleveland was willing to give him a massive contract; he simply chose to flee to greener pastures.
In the case of Mike Wallace, talent on his current team is in no great shortage, but money certainly is. The way the past week went, Steeler Nation would expect no less of Wallace than for him to ride off into the sunset, leaving behind only a first round pick and thoughts of what could have been. But before you douse your #17jersey in lighter fluid and take to youtube with what would certainly be an orignal protest of an athlete being an athlete, take a minute to read why "Fast Money" may become "Old money" before he wears another jersey.
By now you've seen what the draft pundits and enthusiasts have produced with the idea that the Steelers could have 2 first round picks.
For those of you who haven't it goes something along the lines of "With the additional first round pick the Steelers will draft not one, but two future hall of famers on their way to 11 Lombardi trophies in as many seasons. Colbert for prez!!"
Ok I'm exaggerating, but such is the status quo amongst the Steelers draft community, which by the way I consider myself a member of, and only lovingly tease with the previous "quotation." It's hard not to dream of what two first round picks could do for this organization, and I admit I have spent many a Computer Science class scrawling fathomable mock drafts into my notebook. I have to say though, if by chance I am wrong with my premise of this post, I would love for a scenario to go down the way seton hall steelers so eloquently put it yesterday in his post regarding the potential loss of Wallace and it's resulting effects on our 2012 draft.
Make no mistake, if Mike Wallace does indeed fetch an offer in the coming weeks, I sincerely doubt the Steelers having the resources to match such a contract, and according to Kevin Colbert via Mark Kaboly, the Steelers are done cutting players for now. Just in the nick of time right? I was getting worried we'd cut a legacy or something. Anyway, the common theory is that one of either New England, San Francisco, or Cincinnati will attempt to make a play for Wallace, thus rendering their team invincible and a shoe-in to win XLVII and many more Superbowls. I'm a little cynical today, can you tell? For the sake of keeping this post from being a novel, I'm considering these three teams the only legitimate candidates to court Wallace. Plus, with the daunting additional price of 1st round pick, I can't see a team before the 20th pick willing to part with their draft choice. Let's breakdown each team in order of their first round pick.
*A note before getting started. All three of these teams have ample cap space to afford Mike Wallace. Michael Lombardi of NFL.com places the breaking point (the amount of salary the Steelers can't match) at approximately $12 million, meaning a team would have to frontload a contract with Wallace approximate to that amount.
Cincinnati 21st Overall:
-Has blossoming stars in Andy Dalton and AJ Green. Beyond that their offense has many solid skill players but no clear cut #2 receiver, Jerome Simpson front flips notwithstanding. The addition of Mike Wallace would admittedly be a terrifying prospect, leaving no possibility of double-teaming either him or AJ Green without leaving a defense out to dry. Sounds great for Bengals fans, plus as a result of the Carson Palmer trade, the Bengals have the Raiders 2012 first round pick, making their 2nd pick more expendable.
-First, as mentioned previously, the Bengals would have to spend $12 million in addition to surrendering their 21st pick to the Steelers, and giving anything to a division rival is like voluntarily walking into a dentist's office and asking for a root canal. This of course would be lessened by the fact that the same division opponent would lose one of its top weapons.
-Second, Wallace himself has a troubling trend of disappearing late in the season, as reflected by the 2010 postseason, second half of 2011, and a clunker of a game in this past AFC Wild Card Game.A GM has to question if they're prepared to surrender and pay as much as the price tag demands if they feel this a trend that will continue.
2010 Postseason (3 Games):
13 Receptions 115 yards 8.8 yards per catch 38.33 yards per game 1 TD
Last 8 games of 2011:
29 Receptions 393 yards 13.6 yards per catch 49.13 yards per game 3 TD
Wildcard Game vs Denver:
3 Receptions 26 yards 8.7 yards per catch 26 yards per game 1 Rushing TD
Yea us too Mike, us too.
-Third, the Bengals have greater needs than receiver. When Leon Hall went down with a season ending injury following a matchup with the Steelers, the Bengals defense suffered greatly. On the offensive side of the ball, Cedric Benson appears to be entering "washed up" territory and may not be retained for 2012. Both needs could be addressed in the first round as this and is a decent cornerback class, and with the overall decline in value of the running back position, Trent Richardson could slip on draft day, and getting him in the middle of the first round would be a huge steal.
-Finally, as pointed out by Lombardi in the same article linked above and here, the Bengals traditionally are not big spenders in free agency.
Final Verdict: Not happening. Would I be shocked if it did? Absolutely not, but the Bengals have need in several areas that are more pressing.
San Francisco 30th Overall:
-San Francisco came within two botched returns from going to the Superbowl this past postseason, and after watching the 9ers defense completely shut down our offense late in the season (granted a hobbled offense), I am convinced they're anything but a one year wonder. For the first time in his career, Alex Smith will get to see the same playbook and coordinator as the previous year. With established studs like Vernon Davis and Frank Gore, all that's missing from the equation is a wide receiver. Michael Crabtree has been a colossal disappointment since holding out half his rookie year in 2009. Adding Mike Wallace would give the 9ers the ability to take the top off defenses and open up more possibilities for players like Davis, Gore, and Crabtree. Wallace named the 49ers, and the Patriots as a potential team he'd enjoy playing for in a radio interview last week. Admittedly out of these three teams I would see San Francisco as the most plausible landing spot.
-However, the 49ers have a lot of resigning to do starting with QB Alex Smith who's coming off his best season. The league finally saw Smith reach some of the potential that made him the #1 pick in 2004. After Smith, Carlos Rogers, who likewise is coming off a career year, will command a strong salary, and Ted Ginn Jr. who was one the best return men in the league in 2011, will also look to be retained. There are others like Larry Grant (backup who filled in for Patrick Willis, and ultimately played as well as Willis when the Steelers went to Candlestick) and wide receiver Josh Morgan who could be attempted to be retained as well.
-Additionally, this bit from ESPN's NFC West analyst Mike Sando had this to say in a recent article:
San Francisco 49ers: Those hoping the 49ers will dive hard into the free-agent market for receivers might be disappointed. None of the unrestricted free agents the team signed from other teams last offseason earned more than $4.25 million per season. I asked GM Trent Baalke when the right time would be for the 49ers or any team to invest heavily in a free agent from the outside. Baalke: "There's reasons why we don't do it and I'm not going to get into those reasons of why we operate the way we do. It's just our own philosophy. But if you are asking me when is the right time, I don't know that there is a right time. It is really an individual question for the 32 people making the decisions across the NFL for their own team. ... The model that we use isn't much different than certain other people in the National Football League that have been successful. Does it guarantee us that we are going to have success? Each year is a new year. But we're going to be very consistent with how we operate."
Sounds a lot like the Steelers policy.
Final Verdict: If the 49ers are typically tight with spending then Wallace won't be going to San Francisco. Plain and Simple.
New England 31st Overall:
-Finally we come to the New England. Currently in the same place we found our own beloved franchise in a year ago, Pats nation is looking for a a good pick me up. Mike Wallace would be just what the doctor ordered. Never before has Tom Brady had the oppurtunity to work with a burner like Wallace. Moss maybe, but consider the fact he was in the tail end of his prime when he signed on with the Patriots in 2007. Now combine that with an already loaded offense of Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez? 35 points a game not out of the realm of realism.
-But just as you could make a case for how potent that offense would be, you have to wonder how bad the defense would get if it was neglected for another year. Outside of the red zone the Patriots were abysmal all season. That being said, the Patriots, like the Bengals, have two first round picks, meaning they could still acquire Wallace and use the other pick (27th overall) on a defensive player. This is not typical of the Patriots as recent years have shown us, the Patriots like to trade additional firsts for additional picks that they can stache away or use as they please.
-Then there are a number of players to resign, including pass rush specialists Andre Carter and Mark Anderson (both had double-digit sacks in 2011), and wide receiver Deion Branch. There's also starting Center Dan Koppen who will look to be retained, as well as the fact that today, March 5th, Wes Welker received the franchise tag, which is worth $9.7 million.
-If the Pats have the cap space to left over to do so they may in fact make an offer to another free agent besides Wallace. With the news today of Arian Foster's 5 year deal with the Texans, it has been reported that Mario Williams will not be back with the Texans in 2012, due to the simple fact that they cannot afford him. While the Patriots do not typically spend big in free agency, Williams, as stated by Peter King, would be a great fit for the Pats. Not only would he fit into their scheme, but he'd also vastly improve a weaker part of the team than Wallace would. The Patriots offense is already of championship caliber, so Wallace's addition would only make the rich richer. If I'm Belichik it only makes sense to spend the same amount of money that would go to Wallace on Williams, and significantly improve upon my team's weaknesses. The downside for the Patriots is that they wouldn't be the only team interested and may engage in a bidding war that the Patriots may not be able to win.
Final Verdict: I think there are a few too many needs on the defensive side of the ball for the Patriots to not commit the majority of their high-end draft picks (they have 4 in the first two rounds). Receiver is a need but not a pressing one, and typically the Patriots don't spend a whole lot in free agency.
Lastly, let's look at the other receivers available on the free agent market:
Here's the Top 10 WRs on the Free Agent Market according to Walterfootball.com
The point to take away here is that despite half the top 10 being locked down, the market is still rich with talent. Vincent Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, Marques Colston, Mario Manningham, and Reggie Wayne won't all be allowed to walk, but early speculation indicates that Jackson, Lloyd, Manningham, and Wayne will hit the market (links to speculation are the Players names). Marques Colston avoided the Franchise Tag as it was given instead to Drew Brees. All 5 should be cheaper alternatives to Wallace for any team looking for a receiver, especially when you consider that there's no draft pick to give away.
When all is said and done, it may very well be the first round tender that scares off all potential suitors. The fact that there are so many other viable and capable options takes leverage away from Wallace especially when it comes to negotiating a long-term deal.
So, to conclude it all rather abruptly, fear not Steeler Nation. Mike Wallace is here to stay.
Mike Wallace (next to LeBron) via i.usatoday.net
LeBron (to the right of Mike Wallace) via s3.amazonaws.com
Hands on Head Wallace via answers.bettor.com
Final Wallace via www.hugesportz.com