Mike Wallace, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top receiving threat, reported to the team’s facility on Tuesday, officially ending his holdout that technically began at the beginning of training camp on July 25th.
Wallace, who as a 4th year player did not have enough accrued NFL experience to become an unrestricted free agent, was offered a restricted free agent tender by the Steelers back in March, which he refused to sign.
The tender, which will pay him approximately $2.7 million this season, was at a first round level, meaning that if another team offered him a contract that he accepted and the Steelers declined to match, they would forfeit their own first round pick to the Steelers in compensation for Wallace.
While no team offered him a contract (which very rarely happens with a first round draft pick on the line), he skipped all of the voluntary activities during the spring and was reportedly well into negotiations on a long-term contract with the Steelers when training camp began.
That is where it all went south.
Not wanting to risk injury, thereby jeopardizing his future earning potential, Wallace did not report to training camp. The Steelers, who have a long-standing principle of not negotiating with players that are not at the facility, broke talks with the young wideout.
Now that he has reported, he has just under 2 weeks to work out a long-term contract, or he will be an unrestricted free agent next season. The Steelers open up their regular season on September 9th, and they do not negotiate contracts during the season.
That does not mean, however, that something cannot be done in a short period of time. When Wallace did not report to camp, the Steelers turned their focus to extending their other young star wide receiver, Antonio Brown. Two days into camp, Brown had a new contract extension, adding 5 years and $42.5 million to the 3rd year player’s contract. That deal, however, was not so prohibitive that the team could not also work out a deal with Wallace.
In 3 NFL seasons, the 26 year old former third round draft pick has played in all 48 regular season games, starting 34. He has 171 receptions for 3206 yards and 24 touchdowns, averaging a league-best 18.75 yards per catch among active players. He made his first Pro Bowl this past season after recording a career best 72 receptions for 1193 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Wallace will not participate in the team’s final preseason game, which takes place on Thursday, but is expected to be ready to open the regular season.