Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mike Wallace, Wherefore Art Thou (going)?

Mike Wallace going 95 in Arizona last year.
Like Steelers fans everywhere, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls continue to wring our hands and watch with concern, exasperation and frustration the developing story that is The Mike Wallace Contract Situation.

Like everybody else, including Mike Wallace and the Steelers, we wonder how it will play out.

We wonder whether the Steelers have a plan and if so, what it is.  Do they plan to let "the market" determine Wallace's contract?  Probably.  One lesson the Steelers have learned over the years: Do not bid against yourself; i.e., let other teams establish the market price for a player.

Not a one-trick pony, as many fans suggest.
Wallace would be a welcome addition to just about any other NFL team.  Any number of franchises might step forward and offer him a blockbuster of a contract that the Steelers would have the opportunity to match -- or, alternatively, receive a late first-round draft choice.  The merits of that position are being debated ad nauseum, and the Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette, makes a valid point:  An extra first-rounder would help the Steelers fill needs on the both sides of the line of scrimmage.  Maybe.  But, still ...

How did it get to this point?  

Neal Coolong over at Behind the Steel Curtain wrote a spot-on critique asking that very question and raising the possibility -- gasp! -- that the Steelers' braintrust in charge of such issues (Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, Omar Khan, etc.) -- fumbled the ball on this one.

And, at the risk of incurring The Wrath of Khan ... we should point out that somebody needed to write a post like this and call out the Steelers for how they’ve handled (or mis-handled) the planning of their cap situation the past two or three years.  Neal's write-up is much more thoughtful, detailed and better written than anything JPPBs could have crafted, but the same damn thing occurred to us a few weeks ago when news leaked that St. Louis was making overtures to Omar Khan.  Not looking to blame anybody in particular here —  lots of people get involved in these decisions — but how is it that the Steelers are in this mess?

Mike Wallace is entering his prime years.
Why Willie Colon Instead of Mike Wallace?
Signing Willie Colon instead of Mike Wallace last off-season probably wasn't an either/or choice -- or maybe it was? -- but to Joey Porter's Pit Bulls, the Willie Colon contract extension last year was a head-scratcher at the time and looks like an absolutely terrible decision today, even in light of the “restructuring” announced last week.

The team committed a five-year, $25 million contract to Colon but let Mike Wallace twist in the wind?   What’s Willie Colon ever done? … hang out with Big Ben in Milledgeville?

It's a fair question to ask: Did the Steelers commit money to Willie Colon that could have gone to an extension for Mike Wallace?

In any case, here we are.  The Bengals — never a model of how to run a pro football franchise — are $60 million under the cap.  Yeah, they are perennially mismanaged and subject to ridicule, but here they are: SIXTY MILLION UNDER THE CAP!   You think the Bengals wouldn’t like to sign Mike Wallace?  Or the 49ers?  Or the Ravens?  Or, most worrisome, the Patriots?

The Patriots always seem to find a way to sign whomever they want.  They may well have won the Super Bowl if Tom Brady had been throwing deep to Mike Wallace instead of hobbled Rob Gronkowski.

Now the Steelers have tough decisions to make.  Chuck Noll used to say — after he learned his lesson in the late 70s and early 80s — that it’s better to let a player go a year early than to hang onto him a year late.

Who would you rather have? Wallace, or a first-rounder?
The Steelers are going to have to make those kinds of decisions during the next few weeks, as painful as they will be. Players we love, too: Casey Hampton? Aaron Smith? James Farrior? Charlie Batch? Larry Foote? Decisions will need to made on these players and others.

To Joey Porter's Pit Bulls, though, the Willie Colon contract is Exhibit A of a well-intentioned mistake that is having ripple effects that may result in the loss of Mike Wallace.

Hopefully, the Steelers will work out something with Wallace. But it should never have gotten to this point

Food for Thought:
Could this be the sort of deal be a model for what the Steelers are trying to devise for Mike Wallace?  Probably not -- the franchise tender for Mike Wallace would be much higher than for Jermichael Finley -- but it's an interesting solution to a similar problem.  And the Packers have proven very adept at dealing with the salary cap.

More Food (literally) for Thought:
Patty Tascarella's "The Fish Sandwich Chronicles" in The Pittsburgh Business Times

Sunset Gun:  "Every Day Needs a Little Otis Tenderness"