Player: Cody Wallace
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2016 Salary Cap Hit: $1,350,000
2016 Season Breakdown:
It’s rather unfortunate that the season of Cody Wallace’s least usefulness to the team just so happened to coincide with the highest cap hit that he was scheduled to have on the three-year contract that he signed after filling in admirably at the end of the 2013 season at center.
The journeyman interior offensive lineman, who has never been a full-time starter, and only played a handful of snaps since his drafting in the third round in 2008 to the time the Steelers signed him off the scrap heap in September of 2013, did not see the field at all this past season due to injury.
That is after a year in which he played a critical role, as Maurkice Pouncey missed the entire season with a fractured fibula. Wallace was thus thrust into the starting lineup and played pretty much every single snap, if I recall correctly.
I do hope that those campaigning for the Steelers to let the “injury-prone” Pouncey go to save money because “Wallace can handle the job” now see after a full season with the All-Pro back under center the difference between the two.
Of course, it’s unfair to knock Wallace in comparison to Pouncey, and the truth is that he did well for a backup being asked to serve as a starter. He has always done yeoman’s work when called upon, although he had greater struggles when asked to play at guard than at center, which was a bit of a concern.
Free Agency Outlook:
I do find it highly unlikely that Wallace is re-signed by the Steelers. Not only is he coming off of an injury that caused him to miss the entire season (even though he was not put on injured reserve until late October), he is also going to turn 33 during the 2017 season, and, frankly, he is no longer their best option.
I think that the performance of first-year interior lineman B.J. Finney pretty much sealed Wallace’s fate, as Finney played better in his three starts than Wallace ever had—though, unlike Wallace, he was better at guard than at center. The former undrafted free agent was a seamless transition during his two starts at guard and the Steelers had some of their best rushing performances in those two games, the latter featuring him pulling.
Finney is also significantly younger. The best that I could see for Wallace at this point is a one-year, veteran-minimum contract and a chance to compete for a roster spot in training camp, but the truth is that he may not even be extended that offer.
I could see the Steelers draft an interior lineman late in the draft as a project if they really feel the need to have a ninth lineman on the roster, as Chris Hubbard is likely to serve as the Swiss Army knife backup at all five positions.