Free-agent signings big deal to Steelers WR Wallace

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While some teams dived right into free agency, scooping up big-play wide receivers as though they were endangered species, the Steelers have not even stuck their toes in the water. And might not for a while.

But that doesn't mean that what is happening around the NFL is going unnoticed on the South Side. Or won't have some effect on what could happen with Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Wallace.

Within 24 hours of the start of free agency, five of the top wide receivers who were unrestricted free agents signed new, lucrative contracts that set the bar for what the Steelers might have to pay Wallace. Of course, it also could indicate what some other NFL team might have to offer if they want to pry the third-year receiver from the Steelers.

The Steelers tendered Wallace the highest offer possible -- a one-year deal worth more than $2.7 million that gives them the right to match any offer Wallace might receive as a restricted free agent.

But it also ensures that they would receive a No. 1 draft choice in return if they declined to match the offer.

While the No. 1 pick might seem like a steep and undesirable price to pay for some NFL teams, the likelihood Wallace could receive an offer sheet probably increased after the rapid manner wide receivers have disappeared from the free-agent market.

Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay) and Pierre Garcon (Washington) signed with new teams, Marques Colston (New Orleans) and Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis) re-signed with their existing team.

Brandon Marshall was traded from Miami to Chicago.

San Francisco, looking for a big-play receiver, signed Randy Moss.

Jackson headed the list with a reported five-year, $56 million deal that included $26 million guaranteed.

Team president Art Rooney II has said the Steelers are more interested in re-signing their own free agents instead of dabbling in the free-agent market.

And, with so little money to spend, it certainly appears that will be the case.

After tendering offers to Wallace and five other restricted free agents that totaled just over $9 million, the Steelers are approximately $1.5 million under the salary cap.

Gerry Dulac: ; twitter: @gerrydulac


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