- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Steelers are optimistic that they'll keep restricted free agent Mike Wallace. Just ask general manager Kevin Colbert.
"We want Mike to finish his career with the Steelers and we're pretty sure he wants to end his career [with the] Steelers," Colbert told reporters Thursday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. "We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that Mike Wallace remains a Pittsburgh Steeler and I think that’s Mike’s belief as well. Usually when you have two parties that share the same goal, it’s easier to achieve that goal.”
Colbert wouldn't say how the Steelers would keep Wallace, so it's left to our interpretation. Most predict the Steelers will just put the $2.7 million first-round tender on Wallace, but Colbert wouldn't be this confident under that scenario, would he?
His bold comments suggest to me that the Steelers have to be strongly considering two options: putting the $9.4 million franchise tag on Wallace or making a strong run at a long-term deal -- both of which would be a surprise considering Pittsburgh's salary-cap predicament. Unless he was just being hopeful, Colbert sounded like someone who was determined to do whatever is required to retain Wallace.
Colbert said the Steelers would at the very least use the first-round tender on Wallace, which has always been assumed. But, if the Steelers do that, they leave themselves vulnerable to the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals prying him away. I believe it's a 50 percent chance that Pittsburgh would lose Wallace with the first-round tender, and the Steelers have to assume the same thing. That's not exactly the route you want to take if you believe Wallace is going to finish his career in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers have until March 5 to decide whether to put the tag on Wallace and until March 13 to get under the salary cap.
"Having a great player like Mike Wallace is not a dilemma," Colbert said.