The Pittsburgh Steelers gave wide receiver Antonio Brown a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension on Friday, prompting many to have a knee-jerk reaction that this spells trouble for Mike Wallace, who is currently holding out of Steelers training camp.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Brown's contract meant there wouldn't be one coming for Wallace. Mark Madden of the Beaver County Times agrees with that assessment, adding that the deal the Steelers recently pulled off the table would have paid Wallace just $50 million over five years—not much more expensive than Brown's deal.
But the most pervasive reaction to Brown's deal is that the Steelers could be—or should be—looking to trade Wallace before the regular season begins. And though team general manager Kevin Colbert told ESPN'S Ed Werder that that isn't an option, it still has others adding on the qualifier, "Unless the price is right."
However, there is no right price. There are no caveats. The Steelers simply will not be trading Wallace—not today, not next week and not in October.
For all those who believe that the Brown extension was in some ways a message to Wallace, it wasn't, at least not completely.
Obviously, the Steelers want it to be made known, publicly, that the team is more important than just one player and that the show will go on, with or without Wallace in the fold. But ultimately, giving Brown a five-year extension is actually just the normal way the Steelers conduct business.
As CBS Sports' Jason LaCanfora explains, the Steelers' approach to contracts is to try to get them done at the start of camp with players who are heading into the final year of their rookie contracts. It's not unlikely that a similar announcement could come soon about another receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, considering he's in the same situation as Brown just was.
The Steelers didn't get a deal done with Brown in order to throw it in Wallace's face or to show him how replaceable he is. They did it because that's how they approach players in Brown's situation. And it hardly matters that they pulled Wallace's latest offer off the table—the two moves are only barely related.
It's as simple as this: The Steelers and Wallace cannot and will not continue negotiations until Wallace signs the $2.7 million first-round tender and reports to camp. And if they cannot come to an agreement, then Wallace will play for Pittsburgh for $2.7 million this year.
If no contract comes when the season ends, Wallace will be an unrestricted free agent and he can get his payday from one of a number of teams that will likely be bidding for his services.
But there is no chance that the Steelers will be trading Wallace, no matter what an interested team puts on offer.
Yes, the Steelers are crushed for cash, but they likely have the money (and a plan for it) on reserve for when negotiations with Wallace restart. LaCanfora believes that the right deal for Wallace should be the five-year, $50 million the Steelers had offered Wallace before camp and that as long as it has around $25 million guaranteed, he should take it.
But for that to even happen, Wallace needs to swallow what must be quite the large ego, sign the tender and come to camp. The Steelers aren't trying to play games with Wallace—when they said that negotiations will continue when he signs and reports, they meant it.
They aren't going to make him sign it and then say, "Oh, sorry, never mind, we'd rather not extend your deal." There's no trap here, no bait and switch that Wallace needs to worry about. He's already powerless in this situation—the only time he had any real leverage was before the spring deadline for teams to make an offer for him, and no one did.
At this point, Wallace is only hurting himself and his teammates by continuing his holdout. But that doesn't mean he's drawn enough of the front office's ire for them to seriously consider trading him.
Wallace is still the Steelers' best receiver, and he is an integral part of their offense's plans. He's not a locker room cancer or a self-absorbed prima donna like Plaxico Burress or Santonio Holmes—he's simply a highly talented player without a contract.
There is zero reason for the Steelers to trade Wallace to any team. This is a frustrating time for the team and for fans, but to trade Wallace simply because he has yet to report to camp is the kind of impulsive act that the Steelers, as an organization, would never consider making.
If Wallace wants to get paid this year, he has to sign the tender and report to camp. He can refuse any offer the Steelers give him after that point, sure, and he can choose instead to move on after the season is up. However, there is no chance that Wallace isn't wearing black and gold on the field this year.
By extending Brown, the Steelers aren't engaging in a game of chicken with Wallace, nor does it indicate that they will not pay him. He just needs to show up. And he will.
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