Ed: Wallace Takes a No-Win Position
THURSDAY, 26 JULY 2012 WRITTEN BY ED BOUCHETTE
Perhaps Mike Wallace merely wants to make a statement, so he did not show up on time. Maybe he will report, say, by Friday, when they put the pads on for the first time.
Or maybe he really plans to hold out for awhile. If his goal is to force the Steelers to give in and give him what he wants, he needs to read up on a little bit of their history in these matters. Or, I can just tell him right now.
The Steelers don’t blink in these matters. I’ve seen them give players too much in contracts, more money than they would have liked to give, but they do not budge when a player tries to put them over a barrel like this. Holdout? Call Mike Merriweather. He was their best defensive player when he held out in 1988 with one year left on his contract.
As the Steelers have done with Wallace, they stopped negotiating and told him they would resume once he reported. He never did. He held out the entire season, and it turned into one of the worst in the era that began with Chuck Noll. They went 5-11. But they never panicked, even if they thought Merriweather would help them improve if only they gave him the contract he wanted. He held out the entire season. Just before the draft, the traded him to Minnesota for a first-round pick.
Franco Harris held out too. They cut him. Hines Ward held out for two weeks, they shut down negotiations with him until he returned. Jack Lambert held out in one training camp.
So, understand, holding out yields nothing. The Steelers take a long view on these matters. If they give in to Wallace, it sets a precedent. Maybe Antonio Brown and/or Emmanuel Sanders tries it next year. Or, one day, Ben Roethlisberger. These aren’t the Jacksonville Jaguars. They have a history in these matters, it is consistent and, so are those making the decisions. Dan Rooney, by the way, is back from Ireland for a few weeks. He’s the one who cut Franco.
Now, if Wallace’s plan is to stay away for a few weeks as Ward did in 2005 and then report and try to get a deal, fine. But he will have lost two weeks of negotiations and also two weeks of learning Todd Haley’s new offense. There’s little to gain there either.
The final goal by Wallace could be to hold out until there are six games left, sign the one-year tender (losing nearly $1.9 million of the $2.742 million he could have earned for an entire year) and finish out the season. Those minimum of six games will count 2012 as a year toward free agency and allow Wallace to become an unrestricted free agent in 2013.
That’s a rather large gamble, particularly after Wallace’s swoon in the second half of last season, when his attitude also turned sour – something the Steelers have noted, by the way. What team might fork over Larry Fitzgerald money for a receiver who has done little in 1 ˝ seasons? Maybe there is someone out there. Maybe they’ve already promised him they will give him big money next year, which could be driving Wallace’s holdout for a top deal.
There’s nothing wrong with a player witholding services. The team cannot fine him and they have such short careers that they should maximize their potential earnings with whatever tools are available to them.
But in this case, the path to that goal for Wallace is not the one he’s taking.