The guy who shares a name with the late star of 60 Minutes has roughly 48 hours to make a fairly important decision.
Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, a restricted free agent with a $2.7 million one-year tender offer, has two days to sign the deal or risk seeing his compensation plunge by more than $2 million.
The CBA gives the Steelers the right, on June 15 and June 15 only, to withdraw the tender and replace it with a 10-percent raise over Wallace’s 2011 pay. The end result would be a new tender of $577,500.
Despite indications that the Steelers won’t further alienate a player who already is miffed with the team, it would be foolish for the Steelers not to take full advantage of the rules. They did so when applying the one-year restricted free agency tender, instead of letting Wallace become an unrestricted free agent. And the money he’d lose on Friday pales in comparison to the money the team kept out of his pockets by blocking his path to the open market.
Of course, it wasn’t real bright for the Steelers to use three-year contracts on mid-round draft picks at a time when the labor deal permitted a maximum deal of four years. By saving some signing bonus money via the use of a shorter contract, the Steelers put themselves in this predicament with Wallace, who otherwise would be signed for 2012 at the fourth-year minimum salary.
Their three-year-contract habit also has laid the foundation an identical mess next year, when 2011 team MVP Antonio Brown becomes a restricted free agent.
The new labor deal protects the Steelers from themselves moving forward, since it mandates that all draft picks sign four-year contracts. It also protects the Steelers against a prolonged holdout from Wallace by giving them the tools to make Friday the 15th feel more like a Friday the 13th.
So why not make it known to the player that they plan to do it? He’d then sign the tender and talks could continue on a long-term deal with the Steelers assuming the position of strength that comes with having the player under contract.
Wallace reportedly plans to sign the tender only when he has to. The Steelers can, with the threat of reducing his tender by more than $2 million, put him in a position where he has to. And he’ll still end up with more money than he would have made than if the Steelers had just signed him to a four-year deal in the first place.
So, basically, the Steelers have an opportunity to rectify the blunder that made Wallace a restricted free agent in the first place. The only question is whether they’ll make matters worse by not making it clear to Wallace that his salary will plummet to $577,500 if he doesn’t sign by Friday.