Originally posted on Bleed Black & Gold  |  Last updated 2/18/12

It has become blatantly apparent that Mike Wallace either has to get the franchise tag or sign a new contract before the start of free agency or there is a damn good possibility he will be in another uniform next season. It did not matter which channel I turned on or which site I looked at over the past two days. They all are hyping the same thing. Mike Wallace being a restricted free agent will likely land him on another team.

Wallace can only receive a first round tender from the Steelers as protection. That is a small price to pay for a 25 year old wide receiver who can blow the top off of the defense. Wallace is going to be a prime candidate on the market. It is a good year for wide receivers with Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne and others out there. Most are about to hit or are over 30. Wallace is about to hit his prime. The production a team will get out him will well exceed everyone else on this list.

There seems to be four team names that come up all in most sources for Wallace’s services. They are Baltimore, San Francisco, Cincinnati and New England. Two teams in the division, our most hated rival outside the division and then a team on the brink of being a championship contender. All of which even with no poison pill have the cap space to give Wallace a front loaded deal that the Steelers will not be able to match. Especially the Bengals who are around $44 million under the cap. It puts the Steelers in a very vulnerable position.

The Steelers are still roughly $11 million over the cap as it stands. They will need $9.4 million to franchise Mike Wallace as that is the number for receivers this season. The Steelers need to remove over $20 million in salaries to make this happen. That means some heads are going to have to roll.

Cuts/Restructures to get under the cap and keep Mike Wallace:

  • Hines Ward- $3.39 Million
  • Casey Hampton- $5.89 Million
  • Larry Foote- $3 Million
  • Aaron Smith- $2.1 Million
  • Rashard Mendenhall- $2.23 Million (this could be Jonathan Scott, about the same cap charge)

That right there gets the Steelers to around $16.61 million. Add to that a Ben Roethlisberger restructured contract and you are now under the cap and still have Mike Wallace. All of these guys minus Hines Ward are in the last year of their contracts. Mendenhall and Hampton are injured and will most part if not all of the season anyways. Foote and Smith are both going to be situational at best. Ward is the number 4 receiver. While it will be a loss of guys who have been here for a long time all of which are replaceable. That hardest being Hampton but Ziggy Hood is expected to take that spot if the Steelers do not draft a Nose Tackle. That will put the Steelers right back at the salary cap though so they will still need to make some more moves to sign some now needed free agents, restricted free agents and draft picks. That could come from a Troy Polamalu restructure for the unrestricted free agents. When it comes to the draft picks the Steelers will have some time. They can work a new deal with Mike Wallace to cut his cap number way down the same way they did with LaMarr Woodley last year. They will also get $2.39 million back when Chris Kemoeatu is released after June 1. If the Steelers were to draft Dont’a Hightower they would also be able to part ways with James Farrior giving them another $2.82 million. That should give the Steelers enough to sign all the draft picks and the restricted free agents. That is to keep Wallace around. If we were to lose Wallace there is not much of an upside. They lose a playmaking receiver. They lose a weapon. A team that we have to compete closely with would get him if he stayed in the AFC. We may have to face him twice a year. If you had to find a bright spot it would be a draft pick. It would be the original first round pick of the team that takes Wallace. Cincinnati would have to give up 21, Baltimore 29, San Francisco 30, and New England 31. The best out of that would be Cincinnati but I wouldn’t want to face Wallace twice every year. Our best hope would be San Francisco even if it is a lesser pick. That means it is time to make a decision. You can either Franchise Tag Mike Wallace and keep him or you can keep your old guard who will be around for one more year maybe and loose Wallace. It is a choice that needs to be made quickly though. You would think it would be an easy choice. Wallace is too good to lose. To keep around guys who even if they help this year will not be helping in future years where Wallace could be around for 6 or 7 more years is just crazy to even have to think about.

Your call Mr. Rooney. The future or the past?

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