I hate to sound like a broken record but…
With the 2012 NFL Draft three days away, the Pittsburgh Steelers have something else to worry about. Reports have surfaced that restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace has told people within the organization that he doesn’t plan to sign his tender offer “until he has to.” As I predicted last week, it’s looking more and more like Wallace is going to be a major pain in the ass until he gets the big money long term contract he covets.
The Steelers have historically not responded well to threats, however vague. Seriously, could Wallace be any more cryptic with his words? “Until he has to” can mean any one of several different things. Some of them are only slightly more annoying than a child pouting because his mom won’t buy him a brand new toy while others could have significant consequences for both Wallace and the team going forward. Worst case scenario has us facing another Vincent Jackson situation, which all but wrecked the Chargers last year. At first I thought that possibility fairly remote but it’s becoming increasingly clear that Wallace is every bit as selfish and lacking in character as V-Jax.
According to Adam Schefter at the Four Letter, the Steelers believe Wallace’s words mean he will hold out through the off-season and all of training camp. This presents an interesting dynamic for the Steelers. As reader Jeff reminded me in a previous column, the CBA states that if a player doesn’t sign his tender by June 15th, the team can rip it up and offer him 110% of his previous year’s salary instead. Which means if the Steelers truly want to dick over with their disgruntled wide out, they can snatch the $2.67 million offer from Wallace’s greedy little hands and replace it with a contract for a measly $600,000.
Of course, Wallace could then escalate this game of Thermonuclear War by sitting out during the regular season. He only needs half a year of service to qualify for unrestricted free agency. Which means, like Jackson before him, he could sit at home until well into the 2012 campaign. If he does that, however, the Steelers could still Franchise tag him after the season. As you can see, there are nearly infinite number of moves and counter moves, all of which lead to nothing but confusion, chaos, and bad feelings from both sides.
I don’t profess to be able to read the minds of the Steelers’ brain-trust but going by their history, I can’t see them putting up with Wallace if he continues to be a hassle. Nor do I see them being held hostage by a one-trick pony wideout. They’ve cut ties in the past with star receivers (Santonio Holmes) and high draft picks (Plaxico Burress) without a second thought so I can’t imagine them bending over backwards to placate Mike Wallace, no matter how valuable the arrogant jackass thinks he is. The offense could easily go forward with Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders in the starting line-up, both of whom have shown plenty of ability as COMPLETE wide receivers, in addition to veteran Jerricho Cotchery.
If Wallace plans to miss one day of the regular season, I would hope the Steelers have already made phone calls to gauge what kind of draft pick(s) they could get for him. Setting aside whether or not you agree Wallace deserves LarryFitz money, Pittsburgh simply doesn’t need that kind of distraction. If they allow Wallace to hold them hostage, what’s to stop the next player or the next one to employ similar tactics? It’s a slippy slope to anarchy, one the Steelers have traditionally managed to avoid.