If the Steelers want to keep Mike Wallace, there’s nothing he can do to prevent that.
However, he can try to force the Steelers’ hand to either pay him or trade him.
And that’s exactly what he and his representatives are doing.
Less than 24 hours after a league source told me that a handful of teams are interested in trading for Wallace leading up the NFL draft scheduled for two weeks from today, news leaked that Wallace doesn’t intend on showing up to any of the Steelers’ offseason activities in protest of his first-round tender.
It isn’t by coincidence that the news was leaked that Wallace doesn’t plan to sign his restricted free agent tender by the April 20 deadline only weeks before the draft, it is strategy.
Even though Bus Cook’s plan of planting information that his client would be a major player in the restricted free agent market this year because of the new CBA rule that requires only a first-round pick as compensation rather than a first and a third backfired, that doesn’t mean this tactic won’t.
There was no way that any team would give up a first-round pick for Wallace along with signing him to a lucrative long-term contract on the RFA market, and that became apparent early on.
However, it is very attractive to teams to try to get Wallace via a trade because it would definitely command less than a first-round pick it would’ve cost them on the RFA market.
Also, it is very attractive for Wallace to go to a team that is willing to pay him the in excess of $10 million per season he is demanding.
But, of course, it takes two teams to trade, and floating it out there at the absolute right time that Wallace doesn’t plan to attend offseason workouts during a year that the team hires a new offensive coordinator should perk up the ears of all the Steelers’ decision-makers.
Santonio Holmes was traded 10 days before the 2010 draft. News about a disgruntled Wallace broke 15 days before the 2012 draft. Coincidence? Doubtful.
Although Holmes’ trade had a lot to do with the trouble he got into on the heels of Ben Roethlisberger’s Milledgeville incident, but still, a part of it was because Holmes was in the final year of his contract and the Steelers had no intentions of signing him to an extension and wanted to get something for him.
So the Steelers shipped Holmes to New York for a fifth-round choice.
Wallace would likely command a higher pick than a fifth, but the Steelers have to consider any offer that comes. Plus, it would be much easier to explain a trade of a disgruntled employee than a model employee, and Bus Cook knows that hence yesterday’s report.
It’s becoming clearer that the Steelers aren’t going to offer Wallace enough money for him to forgo testing the free agent market next year.
The Steelers aren’t going to franchise him, either.
The franchise tag was $9.4 million this year, but will most certainly go up next year following the big contracts of Calvin Johnson ($16.5 million a year) and Vincent Jackson ($11 million a year) last month.
It’s already been reported that Wallace wants Larry Fitzgerald-type money – 8 years, $120 million.
That’s not going to happen here because the Steelers don’t value receivers like that and, most importantly, they don’t have the money to do it.
What the Steelers have to decide is whether having Wallace for this year is worth losing a possible third or fourth-round draft choice or some other draft choice combination another team is willing to part with in a trade.
If it is, then they will keep him.
If it isn’t, they will trade him.
But make no mistake about it, once the draft is over and if Wallace doesn’t sign his tender, the little leverage Wallace has will be gone.
If Wallace doesn’t sign his tender by June 15, the Steelers could reduce his tender by $2.1 million and still retain his rights.
If Wallace holds out the entire year, he would lose an accrued season and still be a restricted free agent again next year when everything repeats itself.
Wallace could go the route of Jackson a couple years ago when he accepted the reduced tender, held out until Week 10 and became an unrestricted free agent after that, but that would make him less attractive to possible suitors.
So what will happen?
Well, this is for sure: Wallace isn’t going to miss any OTAs, he isn’t going to hold out, he isn’t going to show up in Week 10 and he is definitely not going to lose $2.1 million.
That leaves two options – Wallace gets traded within the next two weeks or he leaves via free agency next year.
There really aren’t any other logical options.
• Mark Kaboly
• Posted: 4/12 at 12:55 p.m.