|Wallace is an explosive downfield threat but would he hold out for a new contract? (Getty Images)|
It's not unusual for a player tendered as a restricted free agent or slapped with the franchise tag to choose not to sign the one-year offer because they're holding out for a long-term contract. The latest with such designs, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter: Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace.
Wallace, the team's 2009 third-round pick, is one of the league's most explosive deep threats, but he's still on his rookie contract. And as a restricted free agent, he's set to make just $2.74 million in 2012. That's a nice chunk of change until you compare it to the seven-year, $132 million deal the Lions recently gave Calvin Johnson.
Last month, several weeks after free agency had opened and Wallace had yet to draw any interest from WR-needy teams willing to part with a first-round pick to make him a contract offer, there was a report that he was looking for Larry Fitzgerald money, which works out to eight years and $120 million. Wallace tweeted that we shouldn't believe everything we hear, but even if there's some truth to him wanting a nine-figure contract, that's going to be the sticking point to negotiations with the Steelers.
According to Football Outsiders' advanced metrics, Wallace ranked No. 5 in total efficiency among all wideouts last season. Johnson was first. And remember: Wallace disappeared during the final weeks of the season, including the team's wildcard loss to the Broncos. Some of the drop in production can be blamed on quarterback Ben Reothlisberger's late-season high-ankle sprain, which hampered his ability to throw deep.
Nonetheless, general manager Kevin Colbert said earlier this offseason that the Steelers want to keep Wallace in Pittsburgh for the long haul, but Schefter reports that the two sides have "struggled" to find common ground. Wallace has the right to hold out but in most cases these things end badly for the player. The Steelers may have released Hines Ward, but they still have Antonio Brown, who was Roethlisberger's favorite target down the stretch in 2011, Emmanuel Sanders, and they just re-signed Jerricho Cotchery.
Based on Wallace's demands in the coming weeks, Pittsburgh could choose to address the position in the draft's later rounds or in free agency this summer. Ultimately, unless another organization offers him a contract (and they have until April 20 to do so), Wallace doesn't have much leverage. He's been a fantastic story during his three-year career, racking up 171 receptions for 3,206 yards and 24 touchdowns, but the Steelers' offense won't stop being explosive if Wallace isn't part of it.
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