Mike Wallace didn’t receive the franchise tag on Monday, which means that the restricted free agent is vulnerable to being plucked by non-Steeler vultures. Pittsburgh doesn’t have a lot of salary cap flexibility and might not be able to match a significant offer from a receiver-needy franchise.
It just so happens that a few of the league’s most receiver-needy teams pick late in the first round of the draft. And the beautiful thing about the price of signing a restricted free agent with the highest tender away from another team is that a No. 1 overall pick holds the same value, technically, as a No. 32 overall pick.
That’s why it makes perfect sense for a team with a lot of cap space and a low first-round pick to make a run at Wallace. Four teams that fit that bill: Denver, Baltimore, San Francisco and New England.
The 25-year-old Wallace is one of the top deep threats and one of the fastest players in the league. He already has two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. How could a team possibly rationalize debating between, say, Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill and LSU’s Rueben Randle at the bottom of the first round, when they could have a proven stud in Wallace at the expense of that pick?
Yes, Wallace would demand a more lucrative contract, but again, cap space isn’t a major issue with the Broncos, Ravens, 49ers and Patriots. And he would immediately make all four of those teams significantly more dangerous on offense. Not to mention that all four franchises would have a chance to make a top-tier opponent/rival (all five teams involved made the playoffs in 2011) weaker in the process.
The Broncos pick 25th. The last three picks in that spot: James Carpenter, Tim Tebow and Vontae Davis. The Ravens, Niners and Pats pick 29th, 30th and 31st, respectively. The nine players selected in those three spots the last three years: Gabe Carimi, Muhammad Wilkerson, Cameron Heyward, Kyle Wilson, Jahvid Best, Jerry Hughes, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt and Beanie Wells.
None of the 12 aforementioned draft picks have made a Pro Bowl, and few have made any difference at all.
How is this even a debate?