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NFL Free Agents 2012: The Mike Wallace Effect

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Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace could have a big impact on the free agent market this year.
Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace could have a big impact on the free agent market this year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers face a tough situation with wide receiver Mike Wallace. The fate of "60 Minutes" could have a big impact on the 2012 NFL Draft, the free agent market and even the St. Louis Rams.

Allow me to explain.

Pittsburgh's salary commitments currently have them over the league's cap amount. Even with the expected shuffling they will be hard pressed to find enough space to use the franchise tag on Wallace, a move that would pay him $9.4 million. Their only option is to give a restricted free agent offer at the first-round level, which would pay him less than $3 million in 2012.

No problem, right? Wrong. The league is buzzing with the possibility of another team making Wallace an offer that the Steelers cannot match given their cap situation. The new CBA bans the practice of a poison pill contract, but any normal free agent offer for a player of Wallace's talent would be prohibitive for the Steelers to match.

A team could easily surrender a first-round pick for a player of Wallace's caliber, and there is no shortage of rumors about teams will to make such a move.

Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network recently said to keep an eye on Baltimore and New England as two potential interlopers for Wallace. New England has two first-round picks, which would make it easy. There are other teams that could do the same.

With Wallace a de facto free agent, that potentially removes a landing spot for some of the other names available in free agency.

If New England were in the mix, that would end Brandon Lloyd's chances of reuniting with Josh McDaniels in New England. It would increase the Rams' chances for bringing him back.

Lloyd is not at the top of the free agent receiver class, but he is a solid deep threat, something the Rams have sorely lacked in recent years. With New England out of the mix, Lloyd might opt for the familiarity of playing in St. Louis again in 2012, and he would be a cheaper option than Vincent Jackson, allowing the Rams to add another receiver to strengthen the position in 2012.