Rosenthal pointed out earlier this morning a significant dilemma the Steelers currently face. With receiver Mike Wallace’s three-year rookie contract expiring and the maximum tender for restricted free agents reduced from first-round and third-round compensation to first-round only under the new CBA, the Steelers may have to use the franchise tag in order to ensure that he doesn’t get swiped by a team that would be happy to give up its first-round pick to get him.
If the Steelers had insisted on a four-year contract for Wallace instead of a three-year deal, it wouldn’t have been an issue.
Moving forward, it’s not an issue. The new labor deal mandates four-year deals for all draft picks.
Of course, that won’t help the Steelers next February, when they’ll face the same problem with receiver Antonio Brown (the team’s MVP in 2011) and receiver Emmanuel Sanders, both of whom signed three-year contracts in 2010. (Maybe that’s why Art Rooney II wants to run the ball more in 2012.)
After 2013, this new RFA issue should apply only to undrafted players who have made it through three years of NFL service. That won’t give the Steelers much solace as they try to figure out how to keep Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
[Editor’s note: A prior version of this article explained that the new RFA rules will as a practical end three-year rookie deals for draft picks. We’ve since remembered (thanks to a league source who reminded us) that four-year draft-pick deals are now mandatory under the CBA.]