The 2012 NFL Free Agent class boasts a handful of quality options at wide receiver. With guys like Desean Jackson and Wes Welker likely to return to their current teams, it is becoming gradually weaker by the day, however. But one name most excluded from the list due to his restricted free agent status could be more available than teams initially believed.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace is a restricted free agent, and the team has made every indication that bringing him back is a priority. To bring him back may require quite a bit of money, though. If the Steelers slap the franchise tag on Wallace, that will come with a $13.7 million price tag. Considering Pittsburgh is $22.5 million over the cap right now, according to research from NFL.com, that franchise tag may not be in the budget.
So, then what? Well, the Steelers could give Wallace the highest tender offer possible for a restricted free agent. Under that tender, interested teams would have to offer a new contract to Wallace in addition to forking over a first round pick to Pittsburgh. This is the more likely of the two scenarios, Jason La Canfora said.
After the jump, I'll look at some possible destinations for Wallace.
Which NFL team couldn't use Mike Wallace? He is one of the premiere deep threats in the National Football League and is truly coming into his own as a receiver. Those types of players don't come along very often.
It will take a team with deep pockets to lure in Wallace, but it will also take a team willing to give up a first round pick. Thus, team's later in the draft order, and ones with multiple first-round picks, are the teams to look at in this scenario.
The Cleveland Browns would make a lot of sense. They have been looking for a big play wide receiver for a number of years, and with a new quarterback likely to be under center next season, what better way to ease the transition? Plus, the Browns have two first round picks in this year's draft, one of which isn't until late in the first round. Stealing such a prominent player from a divisional rival would be a huge statement.
After falling just short in the NFC Championship Game, it was pretty obvious that the San Francisco 49ers were lacking a big play wide receiver. Alex Smith improved his play exponentially this season, but he is going to need some more help to ever take this team to the Super Bowl. Michael Crabtree has been decent, but he can't spread the field the way Wallace can. San Francisco has the No. 30 pick in round one, and with their rumored interest in a wide receiver at that spot anyways, why not spend that pick on an established star?
Can you imagine Tom Brady throwing his beautiful deep ball to Mike Wallace over and over again. Man, would that team be scary. The Pats desperately need a player like Wallace, and in what has become expected, the team has two first-round picks once again this season. It's not characteristic of Bill Belichick, but breaking the bank for Mike Wallace could be what this team needs to get that fourth title.
When was the last time the Baltimore Ravens had a true No. 1 wide receiver? It's tough to argue that they ever have. Mike Wallace would change that instantly and add another chapter to this already heated rivalry. Baltimore's first round pick is very late in round one, and the team has to know that Joe Flacco needs more help. The issue is that Ozzie Newsome covets his draft picks, mostly because he is such an effective drafter, but on a smaller scale, the team gave up third and fourth round picks to bring in Anquan Boldin. Most would agree that Wallace is a more dangerous offensive weapon than Boldin is.
Mike Wallace's most likely home for the 2012 season is back in Pittsburgh with the Steelers. Despite severe cap trouble, it's tough to see the team risk losing one of its best players. A lot of crazy things have happened in the NFL, so nothing would surprise me at this point.