Mike Wallace is talented, and quite fast, and in the highly unlikely event that he misses regular-season time due to his contract holdout, he’ll be missed. But not much, because the Steelers have two other blossoming young receivers, one of which produced much more than Wallace during the second half of last season, and overall had a breakout year in 2011.
His name is Antonio Brown, and he was given a five-year contract extension worth $42.5 million today, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. So hey, Mike, feel free to sign that $2.7 million restricted free agent tender and re-start the negotiations that you’ve stalled.
It only makes sense. Maybe too much sense.
Wallace has beyond zero leverage, and by keeping Brown under contract through the 2016 season, the Steelers are showing a willingness to make a reasonable commitment to their young core at the wide receiver position. The price of that willingness is evidently an average of $8.5 million yearly, which is what Brown will receive.
That’s a fair going rate for receivers who posted the kind of numbers Brown and Wallace finished with in 2011, and their production was quite similar. Brown finished with 1,108 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while Wallace had 1,193 yards with eight TDs, and the gap in scoring is arguably shortened by Brown’s versatility, and his usage as a kick and punt returner.
Brown’s contract is roughly the same long-term deal that was on the table at one point for Wallace, and he found that offer offensive. When Wallace finally ends his unintelligent and useless contract play and signs his tender, it’s difficult to gauge if a Brown-like long-term contract will be re-introduced, or if this signifies the Steelers have recognized that Brown and Wallace are interchangeable, and it’s not necessary to make lengthy commitments to both right now.
Combine Brown’s contract with the fact that Pittsburgh is now free to use the franchise tag on Wallace next March, and the motivation to make a commitment to Wallace has never been lower.
We’ll likely have our answer sometime in the next week, but he may have blown his chance to get paid.