It was a move that had been anticipated, and at the close of business on Monday, March 5, it became official. The Steelers declined to use their franchise tag on any of the pending free agents, and General Manager Kevin Colbert explained why that decision was made.
"That is where we are from a cap standpoint," said Colbert. "When you use a franchise tag at whatever position it is, it's significant dollars you have to account for and in our current cap situation we just don't have that type of room."
The Steelers could have used the franchise tag on any of their unrestricted or restricted free agents. The list of unrestricted free agents includes Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon, Mewelde Moore, Jerricho Cotchery, Trai Essex, Max Starks, William Gay and Daniel Sepulveda. The list of restricted free agents includes David Johnson, Mike Wallace, Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster, Jamon Meredith and Ryan Mundy.
Seen as the most likely player to be tagged from those lists was Wallace, but no restricted free agent carrying a first-round tender has signed an offer sheet in the last 10 years league-wide. The franchise figure for wide receivers is going to be in the neighborhood of $9.4 million, while the first-round tender figure is about $2.7 million.
"There is no choice," said Colbert. "Mike will get a tender that would require a team having to give us a first-round pick if he signs with them and we choose not to match it. We understand there could be offers that come in. Mike is a significant player. Ultimately it's our decision whether or not we are going to match an offer (that he might get). We still have control over the situation, even though he could get offers from the outside. Ultimately we'll make the decision whether Mike is going to be a Steeler or not."
But Colbert reiterated that the Steelers are very interested in keeping Wallace.
"We want Mike to finish his career here," said Colbert. "That will factor into our decision. You have the same right of first refusal on any offer he gets. If he was franchised, you would have to account for a significantly higher amount under your cap, which means we would have had to cut more players. You have to weigh that against the chances you're going to have to match whatever kind of offer he gets.
"Using the franchise tag was an option, but we decided not to."