…through all their money.
Sometimes I wonder what it’d be like to be a fan of another team. Does anybody else do that? Not often but every once in awhile, I’ll sit there in my Roethlisberger jersey after the Pittsburgh Steelers clinch yet another playoff spot or suffer a heartbreaking loss and wonder what it must feel like for rabid fans of other teams. Can you imagine what a Clevelander must think when they wake on game day only to be greeted by Brady Quinn’s #10 hanging in their closet? Or what a Lions fan must feel now that their team is a legitimate playoff contender when their last playoff appearance featured a fella by the name of Chaz Batch playing quarterback for them?
I guess I’m in a reflective mood because frankly that’s all there is for Steeler fans to do during the first month or so of free agency. For the past week, the fans of other teams probably spent half their workday on their computer or smartphone obsessively refreshing the ProFootballTalk website for the latest free agent news. I can picture ‘Skins fans doing their best impression of the Micro Machines guy; “Vincent Jackson…Vincent Jackson….C’mon Vincent…D’OH…Pierre Garcon?…C’mon Pierre Garcon…Pierre…YEAH!”
For about 30 teams, this is the time of year when your team goes out and spends a bunch of money in an effort to become a contender. This is the time of year when you start thinking your front office and ownership truly want to win and are doing all the right things to ensure you’re still playing in January. For Steeler fans, this is the time of year we become Penguin fans. Anybody hear about this Sidney Crosby character coming back tonight or something?
To put it bluntly, NFL free agency is in full swing and the Steelers do not have a single f*ck to give.
Meanwhile, a bunch of other teams are making it rain like Pacman Jones at a titty bar and the objects of their affection seem to be wide receivers. In the past week, three WRs signed big money extensions with their current teams while several free agent wide outs got paid big-time money to go somewhere else. V-Jack signed a 5 year/$55 million deal with the Bucs, forcing the ‘Skins to lavish $42 million on Garcon while mid-tier free agents like Robert Meachem had to settle for only 4 years/$26 million. Elsewhere, teams were busy locking their current WRs to long-term deals, highlighted by the Lions backing up an armored car and dumping $16 million per on Megatron’s front lawn.
It’s madness. It’s insanity. And it’s severely hampering any shot the Steelers have of extending Mike Wallace.
The one ray of hope comes from all places Philadelphia. I despise everything about the City of
Brotherly Love Crackheads, from their crime-ridden city to their rotten fans to their dog-mutilating scumbag quarterback to their deadbeat dad head coach. However in this one lone instance, they did something I wish the Steelers would emulate. The Eagles, you see, had their own young free agent receiver they were having problems buttoning down to a long-term extension. Yesterday, they announced a 5 year/$50 million deal with Desean Jackson which is EXACTLY the same deal the Steelers should offer Wallace and when I say EXACTLY, I mean they should ask Philly for a copy, cross out Philly and fill-in Pittsburgh, white out the spot where Desean made an X in lieu of signing his name and hand it to Wallace.
“But Chris,” I can hear some saying, “How could the Steelers afford to pay him $10 million?” Well, if you look at how Jackson’s contract breaks down, $10 million is paid as a bonus. Say it with me kids, bonus money is spread out equally over the entire contract. His salary for this season is only $750,000. So he’ll play 2012 for $2.75 million, which just so happens to be the exact amount the Steelers tendered to Wallace.
The bulk of Jackson’s contract is back-loaded. He’ll be paid $6.75 million next year, then it jumps to $10 million the next two seasons before finishing up with $8.25 million he’ll likely never see. Don’t forget, you have to add $2 million to the base salary every season because of the signing bonus so in essence he’ll be paid close to $9 million next year. While that may still sound too rich for the Steelers, starting next season the salary cap is expected to jump quite a bit thanks to an increase in revenue (mostly due to new tv contracts). Plus, how many seasons do guys like James Harrison and Casey Hampton realistically have? By the time Wallace hits his big money years, they’ll likely be gone and their big salaries along with them.
With Wideout-aggedon quickly burning through the available talent pool, it’s only a matter of time before a team left out of the frenzy takes a look at Wallace and channels Wile E. Coyote drooling over a big juicy steak. The market has been set for an upper tier receiver and the Steelers would be smart to not tempt fate by letting him dangle out there. And, as the Eagles have shown, they could easily tie him up for the long-term without damaging their cap situation in the short-term. Do it.