The deadline for teams signing restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace to an offer sheet passed at 11:59 p.m. Friday night with no takers thus ensuring Wallace will be back for another year, baring an unlikely draft-day trade.
However, Wallace still has a handful of options that he and his agent Bus Cook will explore within the next couple weeks.
Reports surfaced last week that Wallace doesn’t plan to sign the first-round tender the Steelers offered any time soon, and doesn’t plan to attend voluntary offseason workouts that begin May 22.
The Steelers will hold its mandatory minicamp from June 12-14 that Wallace could skip and not incur any fine from the team because he still wouldn’t be under contract with the team if he doesn’t sign the tender.
June 14 will be the last time the team is together until the start of training camp set for the end of July.
Wallace has options, albeit limited, and not many that gives him any leverage, including holding out the entire year or holding out until after Week 10 that would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent next year.
If Wallace would choose to not sign his tender, it would cost him millions this year, thus making that option unlikely.
Wallace can choose not to sign the first-round restricted free agent qualifying tender the Steelers offered him last month that would guarantee him a raise of $2.16 million for the upcoming season.
However, if Wallace doesn’t sign his $2.742 million tender by June 15, under CBA guidelines, the Steelers could reduce their offer drastically to 110 percent of his $580,000 salary last year.
In order to do that, the Steelers must tender Wallace a one-year contract of at least $638,000 by June 1.
Wallace could accept the reduced tender, hold out until after the Nov. 12 game against Kansas City and become an unrestricted free agent after the season (Vincent Jackson did that two years ago).
If Wallace decides to hold out the entire year, he would lose an accrued season and still be a restricted free agent again next year.
The Steelers can still negotiate a long-term deal with Wallace up until their self-imposed deadline of the start of the season, but with Wallace reportedly wanting Larry Fitzgerald money ($16 million a year), it is growing more likely that Wallace will play out the final year of his rookie deal and test free agency next spring.
The Steelers could franchise tag Wallace next year, but with that number pushing well past the $10 million mark, that too is unlikely.
Wallace, 25, has started 34 of his 48 career games. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and 24 touchdowns in three years. His 18.7 yards per reception ranks first among active receivers and is in the top 25 all-time.
The Steelers re-signed veteran Jerricho Cotchery last week to go along with two third-year receivers in Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders – both of whom will be restricted free agents next year.
• Mark Kaboly
• Posted: 4/21 at 12:01 a.m.