Good news/bad news about Wallace asking price
Posted: Friday, March 23, 2012 11:00 pm
By Jim Wexell For HeraldStandard.com | 0 comments
According to Matt Burrows of The Sacramento Bee ([url]http://blogs.sacbee.com/49ers/archives/2012/03/the-49ers-inquired-about-mike-wallace-but.html#mi_rss=49ers[/url] Blog and Q&A), the San Francisco 49ers recently inquired into Steelers restricted free agent WR Mike Wallace and were turned away by demands for "a contract that surpasses the eight-year, $120 million deal that Larry Fitzgerald signed last year."
Burrows surmised that the high price tag is the reason there have been no bids made yet for Wallace's services.
And that's the good news for Steelers fans. If Wallace is serious about being paid better than one of the very best receivers in the game, the team will undoubtedly keep its speedy split end this season for at least the price of his RFA tender, $2.7 million.
And now the bad news: If the report is true, the Steelers won't pay him Fitzgerald money and won't be able to extend his contract before the start of the season.
To Wallace's point, he's gained more yardage and scored as many touchdowns as Fitzgerald through each player's first three seasons in the league.
Fitzgerald caught 59 more passes in those three seasons, but at 13.6 per catch he was 71 yards off the 3,206 receiving yards that Wallace has gained in his first three seasons. Wallace is the league's active leader in average yards per catch at 18.7.
Fitzgerald's average per season through eight seasons is 87-1,201-9, and Wallace's is 57-1,069-8.
Last season, Wallace caught 72 passes for 1,193 yards and 8 touchdowns from Ben Roethlisberger. Fitzgerald caught 80 passes for 1,411 yards and 8 touchdowns from Kevin Kolb and John Skelton.
Wallace, by virtue of his alleged demands, actually makes a good argument that he deserves to be paid like Fitzgerald. The stats say Wallace is closer to Fitzgerald than perception (and perhaps common sense) might indicate.
But there's also the perception that NFL defenses have figured out Wallace.
In the first half of last season, Wallace caught 43 passes for 800 yards (18.6) and 6 touchdowns.
In the second half, those numbers dipped to 29-393 (13.6)-2. And then in the playoff game he caught 3 passes for 26 yards.
Did defenses figure him out? Or was Wallace thrown off stride by comments made by his nemesis with the Baltimore Ravens, cornerback Lardarius Webb?
Before playing the Steelers in Game 9 last season, Webb told The Baltimore Sun that the Steelers "have a guy in 84, Antonio Brown, who's better than 17 (Wallace) in all aspects of the game."
This sent Wallace into a profanity-laced tirade against Webb and was followed by a 4-68-1 performance in the Steelers' loss to the Ravens. The performance wasn't up to Wallace's first-half standards, but it was one of his best games in the second half of the season.
That poor second half -- regardless of whether it was due to the rest of the league or his own personal volatility -- is the reason the Steelers cannot, and presumably won't, give Wallace the Fitzgerald money he's apparently seeking.
The Steelers' alternative will be to let Wallace play this season for $2.7 million and then, if he plays well, slap the franchise tag on him next season because the indications and implications out of San Francisco are that he's not going to take any hints from Hines Ward, that Wallace is just another diva wide receiver at his core.
We shall see.
It was the last big week of pro days for college prospects, or at least the kind of pro days that bring Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin out for personal looks.
Last Friday, Tomlin attended the West Virginia pro day and was so impressed by the physical transformation of former H-back Will Johnson that he promised him a roster spot.
After catching 9 passes as a senior in 2010, Johnson went undrafted, but rededicated himself and at the recent pro day the 6-2, 242-pounder put up 30 bench reps and ran the 40 in 4.49. The Steelers signed Johnson and 6-8 receiver Wes Lyons over the weekend.
Perhaps this made WVU's top prospect, Bruce Irvin, upset because the 3-4 OLB with the shady past was arrested Saturday night for breaking a sign at Jimmy Johns Sandwich Shop in Morgantown. For a guy with prison already in his background, this likely finds Irvin off the Steelers' draft board completely.
On Monday, Colbert attended the Iowa pro day for a close look at top-15 candidate Riley Reiff, a left tackle, just in case he falls to pick 24.
On Thursday, Tomlin went to LSU (DT Michael Brockers, WR Rueben Randle) and Colbert went to Stanford to look at another left tackle, Jonathan Martin, who reportedly had a poor day and could possibly fall to pick 24 and force an interesting decision for the Steelers.
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