Wallace offered highest tender
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The Steelers placed a first-round tender on Pro Bowl receiver Mike Wallace, protecting themselves in case he receives an offer from another NFL team.
But they left themselves potentially vulnerable on the offensive line by placing the original, or lowest possible, tender on starting guards Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster -- players who would command no compensation if they signed with another team.
By tendering Wallace the highest offer, the Steelers will pay him $2.7 million in 2012 and have the option to match any offer he might receive as a restricted free agent. It also means they would receive a No. 1 draft pick in return if Wallace signed an offer sheet with another team and the Steelers declined to match the offer.
The Steelers have said they want to sign Wallace to a contract that would keep him with the team for a long time and already have had discussions with his agent, Buss Cook.
The situation is not the same for Legursky and Foster, who ended the season as the starters at left and right guard, respectively, on the depth chart.
They were two of five restricted free agents -- cornerback Keenan Lewis, safety Ryan Mundy and tight end David Johnson were the others -- who received the original tender Monday from the Steelers. All five will receive $1.26 million in '12 if they sign the tender.
Because they were undrafted free agents, Legursky and Foster become something of a bargain because they would not require a draft pick in return if another team signed them. With the release of veteran guard Chris Kemoeatu, that would create an even bigger depth problem at that position.
The Steelers would receive a third-round choice for Lewis, a sixth-round pick for Mundy and a seventh-round choice for Johnson if they signed with another team. Those were the rounds in which those players were drafted by the Steelers.
The free-agent signing period begins today, but the Steelers do not have any planned visits and may not have many.
Team president Art Rooney II has said the Steelers' top priority is re-signing their own players, even though they managed to get approximately $10.5 million under the salary cap by restructuring contracts and terminating players.
The Steelers almost never pursue top-tier free agents and probably will look only at players who can provide depth. But they are not expected to be as active as they were two years ago when they signed Larry Foote, Jonathan Scott, Will Allen, Arnaz Battle and Antwaan Randle El in free agency.
Coach Mike Tomlin said running backs coach Kirby Wilson, who suffered severe burns in a fire at his home in January, is making a quick recovery and is expected to return to the team this season.
Wilson's job will be filled by other assistant coaches, primarily special teams assistant Amos Jones, until he returns.
"He's doing great," Tomlin said in an interview on the Steelers official website. "It's a long and challenging process, but one he proves daily that he is up to. The rehabilitation is going well. He has surprised the doctors with the rate of recovery. Obviously, we still have a long way to go but it has been just awesome to watch him go through this process and see the improvement in him.
"What we're doing is we're bridging the gap in-house. We have some guys capable of covering, and I think when we have a group of guys who have been here ....you're capable of doing that. We have two special teams coaches, and that provides some flexibility for us. Amos Jones is a guy who has coached running backs in the past at the collegiate level.
"Over the years, running back has kind of been that position for Amos at times, and so we're very comfortable with our ability to bridge the gap."
First Published March 13, 2012 12:00 am