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Mike Wallace is a restricted free agent, so this wouldn’t be a trade in the traditional sense.
Rather, it would be a team like, say, the Patriots signing Wallace to an offer sheet and surrendering a first-round pick in return.
So in essence it’s a trade—a strictly mandated trade, but a trade nonetheless.
At face, it’s a swap that makes little sense for the Steelers. A low first-round pick won’t likely compensate for losing one of the game’s brightest young receivers.
But Pittsburgh has its back against the salary cap and may lack the funds needed to secure Wallace long-term or match a lucrative offer. It’s possible no one makes an offer, in which case Wallace signs a one-year tender and becomes an unrestricted free agent next year.
Either way, the Steelers will have a tough time making the dollars work, meaning that they could opt to take the draft pick compensation while it’s still available to them.
After spending so much of the offseason rearranging contracts and cutting beloved veterans, losing Wallace would be a bitter pill. But it’s less bitter than losing him for nothing next year.