Is Mike Wallace Worth $100 Million?


A lot of attention fell on wide receivers during the first week of free agency, but there wasn’t any noise about the Steelers’ Mike Wallace, possibly the most talented free agent available, and now we may understand why.

The Steelers would love to sign Wallace to an extended contract, but haven’t been able to agree on terms yet.  Steelers’ owner Art Rooney said this week that they’d love to have a long term deal, but couldn’t put a timeline on it.  “The sooner the better as far as we’re concerned but there’s two parties to it,” Rooney said. “We’ll have to see what we agree on so I don’t want to put any particular time frame on it or restrictions on it because these things take time and I wouldn’t want to box myself in on it.”

According to the Sacramento Bee, the 49ers inquired about Wallace during the first week of free agency, but were told that he is seeking a contract to surpass Larry Fitzgerald’s 8-year, $120 million deal.

Mike Wallace

That’s beyond elite.  The only other receiver being paid on that level is Calvin Johnson, who recently signed a 7-year, $132 million deal.  At first glance, Wallace’s request might seem ludicrous, but is it?

DeSean Jackson signed a five-year, $51 million contract to stay in Philadelphia, and the perception is that Wallace should be seeking a contract closer to that level as opposed to something in the Fitzgerald-Johnson range.  But take a look at the numbers.

Wallace only has three years in the league, but you can’t argue with his production those first three years.  He has averaged over 1,000 yards per season with a gaudy 18.7 yards-per-catch average and 24 TDs.  There are only two players in NFL history who have put up more yards in their first three seasons – Jerry Rice and Randy Moss.  What would a 25-year-old Ross or Rice be worth in today’s market?

Since he’s seeking Fitzgerald – Johnson money, let’s compare his first three seasons to each theirs.  Wallace wins in every significant category (accept number of catches, but I’d argue that putting up more yards in fewer catches is actually a plus rather than a minus).




Mike Wallace




Calvin Johnson




Larry Fitzgerald




About the only thing holding him back is that he’s only got three years under his belt, but given that receivers can lose a step after they hit age 30, youth isn’t a bad thing.  He’s just entering his prime, and barring an injury, has another 8 years left at the top of his game.  Johnson only has 5 years under his belt and is one year older, and he managed to get the biggest contract ever for a wide receiver.

And if you have any doubt, ask his current quarterback what he thinks about the prospect of losing Wallace.  Asked on WDVE radio in Pittsburgh if he was nervous about Wallace’s potential departure, Ben Roethlisberger replied, “Nervous isn’t the word — scared to death. I communicate with Mike. I wake up every day and I’m like, ‘Mike, please don’t go anywhere. I’m begging you.’ I’m going to beg right now over the radio. Don’t go anywhere, Mike.”

Wallace is a restricted free agent, so it would cost a team a first round draft pick if they sign him, plus the Steelers have the right to match whatever contract he is offered. But given the Steelers salary cap restrictions, it really comes down to making an offer that Wallace is willing to accept.  Or the Steelers making a long term offer that is acceptable to Wallace to stay where he is.

And although $100 million might seem ridiculous, in the long run, it could prove to be a bargain.

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