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Thursday, March 22, 2012
Report: Wallace wants more than Fitzgerald

By Jamison Hensley

Restricted free agent Mike Wallace either wants to stay in Pittsburgh or has a really high opinion of himself.

Wallace
Wallace
According to the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco 49ers inquired about Wallace during the first week of free agency but never pursued him because he is seeking a contract that surpasses the eight-year, $120 million deal that Larry Fitzgerald signed last year with the Cardinals.

If this report is accurate, this steep -- and unrealistic -- asking price will scare off any interested team and guarantees Wallace will be staying with the Steelers this season. No team (and there were other interested ones, according to the Sacramento Bee) is going to give that type of contract to Wallace and ship a first-round pick to the Steelers even if he is the best restricted free agent this year.

It seems crazy that Wallace would make such a demand. He's had two 1,000-yard seasons and went to one Pro Bowl. Fitzgerald has produced six 1,000-yard seasons and has gone to six Pro Bowls.

As I proposed last week, Wallace's worth should be between the contracts given to Vincent Jackson (five-year, $55.5 million deal that includes $26 million guaranteed) and DeSean Jackson (five years, maximum value of $51 million, including $15 million guaranteed).

No one is going to put Wallace in the same category as Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson.

At this point, there's really only one team that might be interested in pursuing Wallace and that's the Denver Broncos, who might want to upgrade their wide receiver group for recently signed quarterback Peyton Manning. But the Broncos won't be interested unless Wallace's price goes down.

The deadline to extend offer sheets to restricted free agents is April 20.

Wallace's reported high demands work in the Steelers' favor this year, but there is still some concern. Just ask quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Asked whether he's nervous about losing his leading receiver, Roethlisberger told WDVE radio in Pittsburgh on Wednesday: "Nervous isn't the word -- scared to death. I communicate with Mike. I wake up every day and I'm like, 'Mike, please don't go anywhere. I'm begging you.' I'm going to beg right now over the radio. Don't go anywhere, Mike."

Roethlisberger is the latest to urge Wallace to stay with the Steelers. Hines Ward did the same at his retirement news conference on Tuesday.

"He's someone we need to have here," Roethlisberger said. "I'll be disappointed if he goes somewhere [this year]. I've got a good feeling he's not. But I'm still begging every day and praying that he doesn't go anywhere."

(Special thanks to Neil Coolong, a friend of the AFC North blog, for passing this report along).