Mike Wallace is still a free agent and the only news regarding any kind of deal between Wallace and the Steelers are unconfirmed rumors. The Wallace dilemma has had a couple twists and turns as far as the rumors go. First, it seemed likely that the Steelers would reach an agreement with Wallace on a long-term contract. However, only a few days after these optimistic assumptions new rumors began to surface. It was believed that the Steelers would be willing to take a first round pick in exchange for Wallace if another team was interested in signing him as a restricted free agent.
The next rumor that followed was that Mike Wallace was looking for a deal close to the eight year $128 million contract that Arizona Cardinals’ receiver Larry Fitzgerald signed. Wallace has been an extremely effective receiver for the Steelers, but most would agree that he isn’t worth anywhere near Fitzgerald money. Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson signed a 5 year $50 million contract earlier this offseason; Wallace is likely to get a deal in the same range. The only question left is whether the Steelers will have room for his contract. Next year the Steelers will have a lot of money coming off the books with players such as Larry Foote and Casey Hampton entering the last year of their contracts in 2012.
The key to Wallace’s future with the Steelers could be outside linebacker James Harrison whose contract is similar to what Wallace is expected to be offered. It is highly unlikely the Steelers would move Harrison this offseason, but he could be a candidate for a trade or cap casualty during the 2013 offseason. Moving Harrison, however, would require a capable back-up at outside linebacker. 2011 fifth round pick Chris Carter and Jason Worilds will have to show they have what it takes to step in if the Steelers are to move Harrison. If either player plays well in 2012 Harrison could be on his way out of Pittsburgh.
It is unusual for the Steelers to spend big money on the offensive side of the ball and even more uncharacteristic of them to move a defensive star in favor of an offensive weapon. However, in the case of Wallace and Harrison the Steelers would be able to keep a soon to be 26 year old offensive weapon in favor of a linebacker who will turn 36 following the 2013 NFL Draft.
With a better salary cap scenario in front of them following the 2013 season the Steelers could sign Wallace now to a deal that has a larger cap hit in 2013 than 2012 and make the money work that way or they could press their luck and let Wallace become an unrestricted free agent in 2013 and attempt to sign Antonio Brown and Wallace in the same offseason. No matter what the Steelers end up doing with Wallace one thing is certain: this isn’t going to be over anytime soon.