Steelers GM Kevin Colbert pretty much acknowledged on 93.7 The Fan the other day that the team was in no position to franchise Mike Wallace because they had salary cap problems. The Steelers are about $10 million over the cap now. Franchising Wallace at more than $9 million for 2012 would put them close to $20 million over the cap.
Here is another issue that is more important -- Does anyone think Wallace should get more than $9 million in 2012? And, once they do that, the Steelers would have to start there if they wanted to negotiate a longer-term deal. Wallace is good, but not $10 million annually good. So, they will make him the more reasonable restricted free agent one-year tender and see what develops. Other teams can sign Wallace to a contract after free agency begins. The Steelers would then have two options -- do nothing and receive a first-round 2012 draft choice in return from the team that signed him, or they could match the contract he signed with the other team and keep him.
Here's the question the Steelers and other prospective suitors in free agency must determine: Did defenses figure out Mike Wallace finally as the one-trick pony that Mike Tomlin long declared he was? Wallace is at his best running the "go" routes and outside flag patterns, where he has a chance to outrun someone. However, when faced with cover two defenses and safeties hanging deep, he's not as effective. He does not seem to fight for the ball at times and even gives up on some when covered.
During this slump by Wallace in the second half of the season, Antonio Brown emerged like a Jeremy Lin. He clearly was the team's best receiver in the second half of the season. Curiously, Brown's rise should have helped Wallace because Brown's best asset is taking a short to medium range pass and running with it.
Wallace finished the season as the #9 WR in standard scoring systems, but the author is correct, he did see a dip in production over the second half of the season. If he lands elsewhere, his value will have to be reassessed. If he stays in Pittsburgh, he'll most likely be a 3rd- or 4th-round pick in 2012 fantasy drafts.