Maybe NFL owners aren’t are ruthless as they seem.
With the labor deal giving the Steelers the ability on June 15 to remove receiver Mike Wallace’s $2.7 million restricted free agency tender and replace it with an offer of $577,500 for one year of football, the Steelers by all signs and indications won’t do it.
The Steelers apparently hope not to further inflame the situation by squeezing more than $2 million out of the player’s pockets. But the player already has inflamed the situation by consistently refusing to show up and sign the $2.7 million offer — and the Steelers have exacerbated it by not giving him what he wants on a long-term deal.
“He should be here,” owner Art Rooney II recently said of Wallace’s absence from a mandatory minicamp, which isn’t mandatory for players not under contract. And Rooney is right. And there was a way to ensure that Wallace will “be here” when training camp opens and the process of installing Todd Haley’s offense intensifies. If the Steelers had made it known that Wallace’s tender would be reduced, then Wallace likely would have signed the contract now.
If the Steelers don’t exercise their one-day-only right to cram more than $2 million back into their pockets, Wallace could boycott training camp and the entire preseason at no financial penalty. Though this would make it harder for him to have an impact if he shows up in the days preceding the regular-season opener in Denver, staying away is his only leverage toward a long-term deal.
And that’s why the Steelers should use their leverage toward getting him to “be here.”
It’s possible that the Steelers blinked simply because agent Bus Cook persuaded them that, if the tender is reduced, Wallace won’t show up until Week 10. Once the game checks drop from $158,000 to $33,970, it would be far easier to extend a holdout into the regular season.
Of course, it sounds far more charitable to leave the money on the table due to concerns regarding the preservation of the relationship with the player.
Either way, the Steelers had every right to put the squeeze on Wallace. And squeeze they should have.