Despite my optimism that the Pittsburgh Steelers would reach a new contract agreement with wide receiver Mike Wallace before the start of the 2012 NFL free agency period, that seems not to be the case. At 4 p.m. eastern time today there was no news of a new deal so Wallace is now officially a restricted free agent that is wearing a first round restricted tender offer of $2.742 million.
Steelers president Art Rooney II said in his 2011 season wrap up interview that signing Wallace would be a priority as the Steelers headed off into the offseason. The Steelers have reportedly had contract talks with Wallace and his agent Bus Cook over the course of the last few months, but no new deal seems to be on the horizon right now.
The first round tender means that Wallace is now allowed to accept offer sheets from other teams and the Steelers will have the right of first refusal to match any offer made. Should they decide not to match the exact parameters of the offer sheet, they would receive a first round draft pick as compensation from the team that signs him away.
There had been three primary teams that could likely be in the running to sign Wallace to an offer sheet, but with the San Francisco 49ers signing of Randy Moss on Monday, it could realistically be down to just the New England Patriots and the Cincinnati Bengals as the two teams best suited to offer Wallace a front loaded deal that the Steelers would not be able to match and also be willing to give up one of their two first round draft picks that each has in 2012.
The deadline for a team to sign Wallace to an offer sheet is April 20th, but one would figure if Wallace were to get in offer it would come in the first week of free agency.