2013 NFL free agents: Will Mike Wallace cash in?

Justin K. Aller

Mike Wallace reportedly turned down big money before the 2012 season and will test the waters as one of the top wide receiver free agents.

Mike Wallace quickly made the Pittsburgh Steelers forget they had Santonio Holmes in the first place. Now, some other team is hoping he has that rejuvenating ability as the wide receiver heads to free agency.

The Steelers drafted Wallace in the third round of the 2009 draft. There was a lot to like about the speedy receiver. He posted one of the faster 40-yard dashes at the 2009 scouting combine and his deep threat abilities almost immediately cemented his standing in the receiving corps. As a rookie, Wallace led the NFL in yards per reception, finishing with 39 receptions for 756 yards and six touchdowns.

Despite Holmes having one of the best seasons in 2009, the Steelers dealt him to the New York Jets in the offseason and Wallace moved into the rotation as the No. 2 receiver. Opposite veteran Steelers receiver Hines Ward, Wallace immediately put up No. 1 receiving numbers. He finished second to DeSean Jackson with 21 yards per reception and was fifth in the league with 1,257 receiving yards off of 60 receptions.

2011 picked up right where it 2010 left off. Wallace was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's favorite long-ball target, and after three seasons, the two had connected for more touchdowns of 40 yards or longer than any other pair in the league. Wallace put up slightly lower numbers, but not by much, finishing with 72 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns.

However, in 2011, he also faced budding competition from Antonio Brown, and an ill-timed contract hold out during the offseason before the 2012 season put Wallace virtually destined for free-agency in 2013. Wallace held most of the 2012 preseason seeking top NFL dollars and rejected the Steelers' initial contract offer. The Steelers, not willing to stand pat, gave the money to Brown instead, signing him to a five-year, $42.5 million contract. Wallace, hoping for the big payday, entered the 2012 season riding a one-year, $2.7 million offer instead.

Wallace still put up numbers in 2012, although they were some of the lowest of his four-year career. He finished with 64 receptions (second most), but only 836 yards (second most) to the tune of 13.1 yards per reception. With the emergence of Emmanuel Sanders as a consistent third option for Roethlisberger, the Steelers had plenty of capable hands to catch any pass thrown their way.

Wallace is still a solid down-field threat, and plenty of teams can use his help. Almost immediately, the Miami Dolphins became very interested in Wallace's playmaking abilities and Carolina Panthers' coach Ron Rivera sounds like he would love to have him. The Cleveland Browns are also rumored to be interested in Wallace.

Wallace is reportedly seeking Vincent Jackson-like money, but it remains to be seen whether he will end up with $55 million in his wallet. Still, as one of the top receivers in this year's free-agency, Wallace will get paid -- it just probably won't be as much as what he turned down in 2012.

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