The Steelers currently sit at around ten million dollars over the salary cap and have multiple moves to make before they can even think about resigning their own players. Wide receiver Mike Wallace is the big name free agent for the Steelers this off-season and is likely to demand a large contract at around $9 million a year. This would mean the Steelers would have to cut not only the ten million to drop under the cap, but another nine million to resign Wallace.
The franchise tag would guarantee the Steelers retain Wallace for another season and also give them up to and through training camp to work out a long term deal. The positive in this scenario is that if the two sides can reach an agreement Wallace’s cap number can be lessened by turning a portion of his base salary into a signing bonus. Another option for the Steelers is to place the highest tender on Wallace as he is a restricted free agent.
The tender would mean the Steelers would have to offer Wallace at least a one year $2.5 million dollar contract, however, if another team signs him to an offer sheet the Steelers would have two options. One, they match the offer and sign Wallace to whatever contract he had to agreed to with the other team. Two, they allow Wallace to go to this unnamed team and in turn receive their first round pick in this years draft.
Some fans are begging for that first round pick and arguing that Wallace’s numbers dropped in the second half of the season. There are multiple problems with both of these ideas:
The Draft Pick – any team willing to give up their first round pick would likely be in the last 7 picks of the draft 25-32. This means that the player the Steelers get will not be a top of the line name in the draft and Wallace is young and a proven star in the league. Also, a number one draft pick is very expensive (even in the new CBA) so signing this player would cause just as many problems as signing Wallace.
Wallace’s numbers – Steelers fans across the internet are calling for Wallace to be gone due to his drop off in the second half of the season last year. This thought process has many flaws. Fans state that Antonio Brown could take over for Wallace as the number one receiver and put up equal numbers. Although Brown had a terrific year and is a player to watch in the future there is one major issue with this assumption. Defenses saw how badly Wallace was hurting other teams and began double and even triple teaming him in the secondary. This leaves gaps in the zone and other receivers one on one with their man. Wallace’s big play threat opened the field for Brown to put up the numbers he did. Without Wallace on the other side Brown would not have had the success he had in 2011. Subsequently, if Wallace is gone next year Brown will have to work a lot harder against double teams to put up the numbers he put up this year against mainly single coverage.
If you are wondering how the Steelers will be able to get under the salary cap before the March 8th deadline stay tuned. I will lay out the plan of action that I believe the Steelers front office will take in order to get under the salary cap and give themselves some room to work in free agency.