Mike Wallace is a young star at wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and is currently a restricted free agent. If he doesn't sign a long-term deal with someone, next year, he'll be an unrestricted free agent.
The money might come this year, or it might come next year ‒ and it might be an extension from the Steelers, an offer sheet from another team, or a deal as an unrestricted free agent in 2013 ‒ one way or another, barring a catastrophic injury, Mike Wallace is going to get paid.
And he's looking for lots and lots of money. Via Matt Barrows at the Sacramento Bee:
A league source said that Wallace, 25, wants a contract that surpasses the eight-year, $120 million deal that Larry Fitzgerald signed last year with the Cardinals. Combine that with the first-round pick any team that signs Wallace to an offer sheet would lose if the Steelers didn't match the offer, and you start to understand why we've heard so little about Wallace in the last week and a half.
Last year, Larry Fitzgerald signed an eight-year contract worth $120,000,000, with about $50,000,000 guaranteed.
Wallace is not Fitzgerald ‒ as evidenced by the fact that no one has given him Fitzgerald money ‒ but it does sort of make sense for Wallace to be asking for the moon right now. Next year, he can be unrestricted, so why would he settle for anything than a premium price right now?
He's gambling on himself. He probably knows he's not getting Fitz money (but hey, if he does, good for him). If he stays healthy and has one more season like his last two seasons, he'll hit the unrestricted market with a ton of momentum, and he'll almost get to write his own check.
Also, you may have noticed that none of this really points to Wallace heading back to the Steelers. I'm not saying that won't happen, it just sort of seems like Wallace has his eyes more on a big contract than he does on someday having a tearful Hines Ward-esque "Steeler for Life" press conference. This, perhaps, against Ward's own advice.
Gracias, Bleed Black and Gold.