GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23: Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates his 95-yard touchdown with teammates Antonio Brown #84 and Isaac Redman #33 during the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Stories from around the AFC North that catch our eye, specifically because of the drama it imposes against the division rivals.
ANTONIO BROWN HAPPY WITH MIKE WALLACE'S MONEY. The Pittsburgh Steelers announced that wide receiver Antonio Brown signed a five-year contract extension reportedly worth $42.5 million on Friday, which keeps him in Pittsburgh through 2017. To put it bluntly, it's a surprising extension. Though a Pro Bowl return specialist, Brown has only played 25 games in his NFL career, posted 85 career receptions and 1,275 yards receiving with two touchdowns. That's right. TWO touchdowns. Yet the Steelers feel that they're paying for potential, and not what Brown has actually accomplished. Granted he was the Steelers No. 2 receiver last season, but Brown has only three 100-yard games in his career.
Now various reports have surfaced during the offseason that the Steelers offered Mike Wallace a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $40 million -- Sports Illustrated writes that Wallace was offered more money initially. He didn't take the offer. Many suspect that Brown received the deal that was offered to Wallace, perhaps as a slap in the face. When asked what kind of deal Wallace could get now with Brown's contract, Ed Bouchette with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets, "There won't be." Neal Coolong with Behind the Steel Curtain writes:
The precedent for the Steelers to sign a player to a five-year extension after playing two seasons, and still having one year left on his original contract, is very thin, if it even exists. But more importantly, the question moving forward is whether the Steelers still intend to negotiate a long-term contract with Wallace, or if the contract extension given to Brown was the contract they offered Wallace, and by simply passing it from one party to the other, essentially gave Wallace one of the biggest Eff You's in team history.
From those that follow the Steelers, it appears that Mike Wallace's best option right now is to sign his $2.73 million tender and arrive to camp. Play out the season and become an unrestricted free agent. After all if he doesn't play this year, holding out with a contract dispute, Wallace will be a restricted free agent next season because he didn't accrue a season. At this point it doesn't appear that the Steelers are willing to offer another hefty contract to another wide receiver, however indications are that they'll at least talk once Wallace arrives at training camp.
This adds another question. What the hell is wrong with Wallace? And I don't mean just the money. When teams had an opportunity to sign Wallace to an offer sheet while sacrificing a first-round pick, there were reportedly no takers. Now Wallace rejected a rather hefty contract and we simply don't see him signing for anything less than what Brown signed for. And we don't see the Steelers signing two receivers to combined deals worth anywhere from $85-90 million.
The Post-Gazette writes that the "Steelers are no longer sure they can re-sign Wallace to a long-term contract," essentially moving on and signing Brown, who could have put Pittsburgh in a similar situation next season as Wallace was in this year. Either way. Nate Davis with the USA Today writes that the Steelers sent a message to Wallace. Jamison Hensley with ESPN's AFC North called it a shrewd move by the Steelers (if the Bengals were in the same situation, he'd say the Bengals don't know what they're doing).