Free agency is still a few weeks off and franchise tagging doesn’t start until next week, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start with the baseless speculation and rumor mongering right here and right now.

The word out of Pittsburgh is that the Steelers will not place the franchise tag on impending restricted free agent Mike Wallace — arguably the NFL’s fastest receiver. And that’ll mean that, for the price of a first-round pick, a team willing to give Wallace a new, long-term deal would have the chance to poach him from Steeltown.

Now, restricted free agents rarely change teams under the highest tender, but under the new collective bargaining agreement the price for potential suitors isn’t as high (only a first-round pick as opposed to a first- and third-rounder). And it just so happens that the New England Patriots…

A) Are in need of a deep threat at the wide receiver position to complement Wes Welker and the tight ends and play the role Randy Moss did in years past.

B) Have two first-round picks.

C) Don’t like first-round picks and often deal them away.

D) Have approximately $20 million in cap space.

Meanwhile, considering that they’re currently trying to get back under the cap, the Steelers would have an extremely difficult time matching anything offered to Wallace.

Wouldn’t that be something — if Bill Belichick stole the top receiver from one of his biggest rivals in the 2012 offseason.

That’s just one of many potentially compelling storylines on tap for the next couple months.