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Thursday, April 19, 2012
Wallace never caught a break this offseason

By Jamison Hensley

No team is expected to make a run at Steelers restricted free agent Mike Wallace before Friday's deadline, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The lack of interest shouldn't be a reflection on Wallace, who is one of the top young wide receivers in the NFL. Factors just never fell into place for him.

The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers would've pursued Wallace if they didn't fill their needs at wide receiver in free agency. The Patriots signed Brandon Lloyd, and the 49ers added Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. If the Patriots or 49ers struck out in unrestricted free agency, they would have been willing to part ways with a late first-round pick to get Wallace and his jaw-dropping speed.

What also worked against Wallace was the draft. Wide receiver is one of the deepest positions this year, so teams such as the Jaguars and the Bengals weren't pressured to go after a top wide receiver in free agency.

Wallace is ultimately the loser in this situation because he didn't get the big-money, long-term deal that he wanted. He is protesting this by not attending the start of the Steelers' voluntary offseason workouts. Wallace will play under his $2.7 million restricted free-agent tender, which he will have to sign before June 15 (or the team can reduce his salary to $577,500).

The winner in this situation is the Pittsburgh Steelers. They took a risk by placing a first-round tender on Wallace instead of the franchise tag (which would have required two first-round picks to sign him). But the gamble paid off for the Steelers, who have a history of making the right moves in the offseason.

Now that the Steelers know they are going to have Wallace this season; the next issue is whether they will have him in 2013. Everyone in the organization -- from Art Rooney II to Ben Roethlisberger -- has expressed their desire to keep Wallace.

Retaining Wallace won't come as cheaply as this year. He deserves a contract that exceeds the one given to DeSean Jackson (five years, maximum value of $51 million, including $15 million guaranteed) and comes close to the one signed this year by Vincent Jackson (five-year, $55.5 million deal that includes $26 million guaranteed). The Steelers could use the franchise tag on Wallace, but they probably won't do so because they frowned on doing that this year.

This offseason didn't go as planned for Wallace. But whether it's the Steelers or another team looking for a deep threat, he should get rewarded next year.