Mike Wallace is the best free agent available right now, but it appears that he’s going to need to lower his asking price significantly if he wants to do anything other than play for the Steelers on the one-year restricted free agent tender this season.
That’s the word out of San Francisco, where the 49ers had interest in signing Wallace until they found out how much money he wanted. Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports that Wallace wants a contract that surpasses the eight-year, $120 million deal that Larry Fitzgerald signed with the Cardinals.
If that’s what Wallace is going to demand of every team that shows interest, it’s hard to see any team signing him to an offer sheet, which would also require the team to give the Steelers a first-round draft pick if the Steelers choose not to match. (And the Steelers surely would choose not to match an offer sheet that gave Wallace more money than Fitzgerald.)
Wallace may end up deciding that unless some team offers him a monster contract, he’s better off staying in Pittsburgh on the one-year, $2.74 million restricted free agent tender and then becoming an unrestricted free agent next year.
As great a deep threat as Wallace is, he’s not as productive a receiver as Fitzgerald: Wallace’s career high in catches was 72 last year; Fitzgerald has had seasons of 80, 90, 96, 97, 100 and 103 catches. Wallace’s career high in yards was 1,257 two years ago; Fitzgerald has had four seasons of more than 1,400 yards. It’s not realistic to think Wallace will get more money than Fitzgerald. At least, not unless he has a great 2012 and becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2013.