On June 15, 2012, the negotiations between the Pittsburgh Steelers and warp-speed wideout Mike Wallace could have reached a critical breaking point.
To this point, Wallace has said he will not sign the current tender offer until he absolutely must. Many would argue that was weeks ago. Nevertheless, the tenure stands at $2.7 million, and even that proposition seems sticky at best for success.
On the 15th, the team has the option to reduce the tender to mere peanuts. Or, more relatively, peanuts by the NFL salary standard, a right offered to the team by Article 9, Section 2(f)(i) of the collective bargaining agreement (if you just had to know!).
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal reported that the Steelers have no intention of reducing the offer. Like most of the decisions made by one of the classiest organizations and families in sports, the decision showcases wisdom.
The foresight shown in choosing not to drop the offer is the best choice for two reasons, one obvious and the other, not so obvious.
Recapping the circumstances to date, one can understand the contact dilemma for both sides.
Murmurings of the expectations on both sides have swept Steelers Country, from the shores of all three rivers to the furthest reaches of fans sitting before computers like your own, fancying the notion of a brand new offense that features three dynamic receivers who are all equally prepared within a new offense.
As critical days pass, including organized team activities, time is lost for the offensive corps to gel. Wallace may have his playbook in hand, but the fine-tuning and chemistry that comes from interpersonal practice and tinkering cannot be understated. Thankfully, it's still early enough in the game that the knowledge deficit for No. 17 could not exist by the time the football flies from the tee for real.
The Steelers certainly desire a long-term deal and have hopes to resolve the situation as quickly as possible, despite no current talks with consideration to the holdout. Many hope the resolution comes prior to the 'judgment day" of June 15, considering the sensible thing as most are concerned- and as reality would seem to dictate- would be signing the current tender.
Meanwhile, while terms like "Larry Fitzgerald money" and "world-class athlete" have been thrown around with regard to the rocket-fuel receiver, one can hardly blame a fourth-year player with such speed and explosiveness, despite room for improvement in other key receiving areas, for his desire to turn his potential contributions into the most lucrative circumstance allowed.
And that is the key.
Unfortunately, despite limited free-agency expenditures and a slew of player restructurings, the Steelers are not in the midst of their most solvent offseason, particularly as it concerns the re-signing of one of their premier weapons.
The Pittsburgh Steelers know it, and while money can be molded and cap space can be modified with a few shrewd maneuvers, the Black and Gold have to fight with the past (it's not cheap fielding champions), present (see the past) and future (great young players become challenging free agents quite quickly).
Obviously, Mike Wallace and his agents are aware of this. While many have chastised Wallace for the nonsensical approach to his circumstance, which invariably has his hands tied, it is important to remember his holdout of signing the current offer is not an exclusively logistical decision. It's also personal.
Let's face it, folks. As human beings, both personally and professionally, we all desire to see signs of good faith from others. Unfortunately, while his playing for less than desired in 2012 in fairly inevitable, even with a relatively lucrative long-term deal, the Steelers and Wallace aren't going to come to a good faith understanding that is comprised of 100 percent of the expectations set forth by both sides to-date.
However, by not reducing his tendered offer from $2.7 million to $577,500 (or 10 percent of his salary last season), the Rooneys are extending that first sign of good faith that may facilitate progress in the discussions.
With no teams knocking on his door, largely due to the cost (first-rounds selection included), the Steelers hold all the keys. Could this be the first in a series of good, albeit logical and perhaps expected, gestures by the team to persuade Wallace?
Ehhh.... I'm betting it's unlikely. After all, he's already holding out based on the current tender.
Yet, with there being at least some risk of a long-term holdout into the season- demonstrated by Wallace's lack of resignation about this situation so far, the team shrewdly made the choice to take a stand more difficult.
In other words, they decreased the odds of the worst case scenario, courtesy of another key benefit.
If Wallace holds out until the 15th, he is—despite the alleged good word of the Steelers—risking more than $2 million or more in losses this upcoming season. If he is willing to risk that, he'd certainly risk at least a bit more. The reduced salary of $577,500 would equate to $33,970 per week, doing the simple math of dividing by 17 weeks in the regular season.
Risking millions to make a point, the lack of consequence for holding out beyond the offseason is minimized by reducing the salary further.
By holding firm at the higher amount, whether or not a longer-term deal is ultimately discovered, the weekly losses for not participating for a player who made a "mere" $525,000 last season is $158,823.00
In other words, the longer Wallace holds out or the lengthier the time spent in negotiations, the greater the risk that No. 17 could lose out on well over a quarter million dollars every two weeks.
Within a month, he would lose out on his entire team pay from 2011, and then some.
By wisely choosing to publicly announce their intention to stand pat days before the deadline, the Black and Gold have effectively added a very concrete incentive (sometimes, not losing something is gaining) for Wallace to either compromise for one season under the tender or work more tolerably toward a long-term offer within team parameters when the times comes..
As mentioned, Wallace's holdout is absolutely both philosophical and logistical.
The Black and Gold just cranked up the logistics meter another notch.
A $33,000-maximum stance is a whole lot easier to maintain than a $158,823-minimum one.
The Steelers have made not only a good personal decision, but a great business decision.
The team may be running short on ways to make a mutually desired long-term signing happen. And, Wallace has shown the logical path is not dictating his stance.
In a critical offseason where players will need as much time as possible together, particularly on offense, the team would have had Wallace in camp if it were feasible. I never waiver in my faith that the Steelers can make a long-term contract happen for key players, but hard numbers have (so far) dictated otherwise.
If the terms are more lucrative, it may be slight, but I fully expect Mike Wallace to play Week 1... for just a bit more than $158,823 and 00/100 cents.