First-Round Compensation Would Be Worth Steelers Wide Receiver Mike Wallace

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 08: Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs the ball for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 8, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

+ We're not one to blindly dispute what others say. If there's a website out there that we routinely disagree with (and there's plenty), we merely read the post or ignore it all together. It's not our place to say when someone's wrong about something because the beauty of one's opinion rarely requires absolute solution. It's an opinion and whether you agree with it or not, it remains a state of commentary from one's perspective.

However we're making an exception today. The guys at Who Dey Fans are as close to our friends as any Bengals-related website out there. They're fair-minded, honest and as big of Bengals fans as any of us. Unfortunately we can't agree with their assessment that Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace wouldn't be worth first-round compensation.

Here's how the system works for restricted free agents, which classifies Mike Wallace this year. A team submits a tender for that player, based on the compensation level they're offering. If another team signs that restricted free agent to an offer sheet, then the original team can either match the offer or let that player go, receiving compensation in the process that ranges from a first-round selection to that player's original draft position (depending on the tender that the original team offered).

The Pittsburgh Steelers have more than one option with Wallace, either ensuring his return or risking his departure. They can use the franchise tag, jacking up the one-year price on Wallace with no long-term prospects beyond 2012. They can sign him to a long-term deal (which makes too much sense) or they can offer the maximum tender for Wallace. Though the money offered in a tender would be small compared to a franchise tag or a long-term deal, it makes the Steelers vulnerable for another team to sign Wallace to an offer sheet, receiving a mere first-round selection as compensation.


Could Mike Wallace Become A Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receiver?


Who Dey Fans' first point is that the value of a first-round draft pick might be too much for a guy like Wallace. But the simple fact is whether you draft a wide receiver in the first round, or sacrifice the first round selection for Wallace, you're getting exactly what the Bengals need to help free A.J. Green while giving Andy Dalton another major threat on the outside. During the team's peak run seven years ago, they had Chad Ochocinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry running wild, providing massive match-up problems with teams like the Steelers and Ravens. Then again they also had one of the league's best offensive lines.

Yet imagine if both Wallace and Green run vertical routes, how available the undercoverage will be for guys like Jermaine Gresham, Jordan Shipley or a running back sprinting out of the backfield into the flats or a weak-side wheel route -- a characteristic of the West Coast offense.

However the point is fair. The Bengals have more needs than first round selections and a wide receiver isn't one of those absolute needs that couldn't be addressed later in the draft or through free agency with guys like Robert Meachem or Mario Manningham. And despite the fact that neither are as talented or as threatening as Wallace, would the Bengals benefit that much with another wide receiver with a similar talent-pool as Green when there's no serviceable running backs or a migraine-inducing situation developing with their offensive guards?

Giving up a first round selection isn't the only sacrifice you're making either. When you sign a restricted free agent off of another team's roster, you're signing him to an offer sheet. That offer sheet would have to be pretty significant to force Wallace to leave the Steelers to join a team like the Bengals. Money and draft picks. It's a two-step dance. But is it that significant than signing an unrestricted free agent after March 13?

Yet if the Bengals identify a need a wide receiver, like they should be doing, there's not many options out there with the proven history of Wallace through the NFL Draft. Using a first-round pick, with a decent multi-year contract offers a long-term solution with two wide receivers that would literally consume a secondary where guys like Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley benefit with single-coverage. You're not just adding Wallace's abilities, you're helping everyone else with the simple addition. Will teams blitz less, allowing better pass protection, in favor of seven-men coverages fearing single-coverage against two major threats on the outside? Would the middle of the field split open for Gresham with safeties covering over the top against Green and Wallace?

Reality however is that Wallace is a proven entity, unlike the NFL draft which is nothing more than a game of roulette, plenty of projections and conjectures without any evidence that such a player would succeed in the NFL. And even if the Bengals acquire Wallace with a first-round selection, it's not like the Bengals won't have another to play with.

We're not saying that anyone is right or wrong offering a first-round selection to sign Wallace to an offer sheet. It's an intriguing debate that we feel will create satisfaction no matter the results. But if the Bengals go this route, no one will complain. And if they don't, it's business as usual, so no foul.

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