Larry Fitzgerald money? Mike Wallace should be worried about making Antonio Brown money.
After a lengthy offseason holdout, the Pittsburgh Steelers turned their attention to Brown and signed him to a six-year, $42.5 million contract with an $8.5 million signing bonus.
Wallace eventually signed the one-year, $2.7 million tender that the Steelers offered him as a restricted free agent and no long-term deal was ever reached.
After five games, Brown leads the team in receptions and receiving yards, with Wallace tied for the team lead in receptions.
Wallace is still a threat, but not a big enough threat to warrant the rumored contract demands from earlier this year.
Back in March, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reported that Wallace wanted a deal larger than the eight-year, $120 contract that Fitzgerald recently signed.
No one will confuse Wallace with Fitzgerald. Even though they have had comparable numbers, Fitzgerald is truly one of the best receivers in recent memory and has accomplished all that he has playing on a team that has historically struggled.
In all likelihood, Wallace’s contract demands were not that high, but instead moderately higher than the contract that the Steelers gave to Brown.
According to Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Wallace wanted something closer to the five-year, $55.555 million that Vincent Jackson signed this offseason.
Even that number is a little steep when you consider the performance of Wallace in the past year.
Over the past 19 games—including playoffs—Wallace only has two 100-yard receiving games. During that same period, he has caught at least five passes in only six games. Those numbers are simply not good enough to warrant a massive contract.
Wallace hasn’t done much to reverse this downward trend this season as he ranks 21st in the league with 345 yards and is tied for 39th with 21 receptions.
Of his 21 receptions, only 12 have gone for first downs and his 16.4 yards per reception is slightly skewed because of his 82-yard touchdown reception against the Tennessee Titans.
While the deep ball is part of Wallace’s game, it is no longer a regular part. He only has five receptions greater than 20 yards and only one reception of at least 40 yards. These are not exactly stellar numbers for a receiver whose best asset is his deep speed.
Beyond the stats, Wallace just does not look like the same player that he used to be. He has dropped a number of catchable balls and continues to disappear for long stretches of time each week.
It could be argued that part of the decrease in Wallace’s production could be attributed to Todd Haley’s offense, it could also be argued that talent trumps scheme and Wallace has not give the team a reason to build the offense around his talents.
Though Wallace’s struggles are well-documented, he is still a threat and can be a valuable asset for the Steelers.
Wallace is still a dangerous deep option and draws attention from the opposing defense and Roethlisberger has been able to take advantage of this by completing more underneath passes this season.
But decoys don’t earn big contracts with enormous guarantees and Wallace needs to be more consistent if he wants to get an extension. In other words, he has to become the player that he was for the first part of his career.
Wide receivers have become easier to find and while Wallace is fast, there are a lot of fast guys in the NFL and college just waiting for an opportunity to make it as a deep threat.
That is not to say that the Steelers would be a better team without Wallace. He is still one of the more dangerous receivers in the league.
The issue is his cost and the deal that the Steelers offered him was likely in line with what he should be making based on his performance. Clearly, Wallace feels that he deserves more, but his play has not backed this up.
So was the holdout worth it to Wallace? Probably. He has one shot to maximize his earnings and he tried to use his leverage by holding out. But the Steelers were smart not to give in to his demands.
Wallace was worth a contract extension to the Steelers only if it was at their price and based on his performance this year, the price that the Steelers placed on Wallace appears to be the correct one.
Despite his performance this year, Wallace will still be a sought after free agent after the season and the Steelers should still offer him a fair deal, but it has to be fair.
There is no doubting the abilities of Wallace as a playmaker, but he has not demonstrated the consistency to receive a huge contract from the team.
If Wallace wants a monster deal, he is going to have to have a monster season. As of now, he has a lot left to prove.
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