The Pittsburgh Steelers are worried that another team will snag wide receiver Mike Wallace if they put a first-round tender on the restricted free agent rather than slapping the franchise tag on him.
And you have to believe — the last place Pittsburgh would want to see Wallace end up is with its big rival — the Baltimore Ravens.
It’s a move that makes all the sense in the world for the Ravens, because by acquiring Wallace not only does it make the Ravens better at receiver, but it takes away a playmaker that they won’t have to worry about twice a year.
Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith were the only two wide receivers on the Ravens roster who caught more than four passes last season. Baltimore would only have to part with the 29th overall draft choice, and the Ravens know no wide receiver with with the talent and skill set Wallace possess will drop that far.
Wallace, 25, was named to the AFC Pro Bowl team in 2011, finishing first among AFC North wide receivers in receptions (72) and receiving yards (1,193). He was a deep, vertical threat throughout the course of the season, hauling in seven receptions of at least 40 yards, including touchdowns of 81 and 95 yards.
The Steelers, who are roughly $11 million over the salary cap, can ensure themselves of a Wallace return by slapping the franchise tag on him for the upcoming season. But, at an estimated $9.6 million, it would take a substantial round of cuts (wide receiver Hines Ward, guard Chris Kemoeatu, defensive end Aaron Smith and linebackers James Farrior and Larry Foote) to make enough cap room for the team to use that tag, as opposed to the $2.7 million first-round tender.
The Steelers have until March 5 to decide whether they will franchise Wallace or risk losing him to another team.