|Would the Steelers trade Wallace? (Getty Images)|
There was some pre-free-agency speculation that Wallace would be attractive to WR-needy teams but the market never developed. Perhaps they were scared away by reports that Wallace was looking for a Larry Fitzgerald-type payday ($120 million over eight years), or maybe the cost of doing business -- a big long-term contract plus a first-rounder -- wasn't worth it.
Either way, it might explain this: a handful of teams are interested in trading for Wallace, an NFL source told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly Thursday.
Kaboly writes that the Steelers have traded big-play wide receivers prior to the draft before. In 2010, they sent Santonio Holmes to the Jets for a fifth-round pick. But that had more to do with Holmes' locker-room issues than the fact that he was entering the last year of his rookie contract. (In retrospect, the Steelers got the better end of that draft deal, right?)
"Wallace would likely command a higher pick than a fifth," Kaboly notes, "but the Steelers have to consider any offer that comes. Plus, it would be much easier to explain a trade of a disgruntled employee than a model employee, and (agent) Bus Cook knows that hence yesterday's report."
Rotoworld points out that the latest report "smacks of Cook trying to force the Steelers' hand. If Pittsburgh isn't willing to hand over a long-term deal at more than $10 million per season, Cook wants to send Wallace to another team at less than a first-round price."
And that's Cook's job, to get the most for his client. But as it stands, the Steelers have all the leverage. Wallace can hold out but to what end? Per Kaboly, if Wallace doesn't sign his tender offer by June 15, Pittsburgh could reduce his 2012 salary from $2.7 million to $2.1 million. And in the extreme, if he sits out the season, he'd still be a restricted free agent next March and the Steelers would still retain his rights.
Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert said in February that the team wants to re-sign Wallace but it won't be for anything close to what the Cards gave Fitzgerald. For one, Fitzgerald is a much better player. Two, a year from now, Antonio Brown will be a restricted free agent and the Steelers don't want to set the precedent of overpaying young wide receivers this offseason.
So how does this end? We're guessing Wallace eventually shows up, signs his tender, and ends up with a new contract. Remember, Hines Ward, Pittsburgh's Patron Saint, held out too. It was contentious but eventually both sides hammered out a deal. But if Wallace insists on being among the league's highest-paid wideouts, he'll have to do it elsewhere in 2013. Silver lining: it'll be a lot easier for the Steelers to re-sign Brown.
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