I didn’t really want to mess with this story to much, but seeing as it has ballooned to ridiculous proportions over the past 48 hours, I guess I better say something about it.
Mike Wallace is player most Ravens fans know (or should know) well by now. He is among the fastest players in the game (reportedly he has run a sub 4.3 40 yard time but he ran in the 4.3s at the combine so its tough to say for sure) and is a pretty solid all around WR (although he is first and foremost a deep ball player). As im sure you also know, he is a restricted free agent this offseason.
For those of you who do not know, Restricted Free Agency is a system the NFL uses to make it easier for teams to hold onto young players who (most of the time) were mid round draft picks who have (more often than not) outperformed their contracts. Any player who becomes a free agent and has been in the NFL(or accrued if you want to use the technical term) for less than 4 seasons becomes a restricted free agent instead of an unrestricted free agent(any free agent with 4+ years accrued). Unrestricted free agents are allowed to do whatever they want. Unrestricted free agents have more limitations. An unrestricted free agent can be assigned an RFA tender. Each team has 3 tenders(or transition tags) this year, a 1st round tender, 2nd round tender, and a 3rd round tender. A player assigned a 1st round tender receives the average salary of the top 25 players at their position on a 1 year contract. Any team is free to offer any tagged RFA player a qualifying contract(or a contract which has a larger 1st year salary(including roster bonuses) than the value of the RFA tender), the team who tagged the player then has the right to match the offer and keep their player, if they cant(or choose not to) then the team who offered the contract can sign the player but in return they must give the other team a draft pick from the round the player was tendered (i.e. a first round tender=a first round draft pick). Or to put it simply, RFAs are just free agents with a high minimum salary and cost the signing team a draft pick.
In the case of Mike Wallace, he will almost certainly garner a first round tender(expected to be valued around 5-6 million). Meaning that if a team wanted to sign him, they would have to give him a heavily front loaded contract(probably around 10+ million the first year) that was largely salary bonuses (salary bonuses hit the cap immediately, ill explain in a second why that is important) and fork over their top overall pick in the draft.
Most RFAs dont get touched once they hit the market because they arent worth the price it would cost to get them, and their team would likely just match the offer so you would just end up wasting your time. The market for them is extremely small if they have a 1st round tender, because teams picking in the top 15 or so dont want to part with a pick that high no matter who the player is so the market for that player is immediately cut in half (if not more).
In the case of Mike Wallace though, things are a bit different. the Steelers are currently 11 million over the cap(Adam Schefter tweeted that number less than 30 minutes ago). That means that almost any qualifying offer would be enough to get Mike Wallace away since the steelers would have to release half of their starting lineup to be able to afford to match the deal. The other factor her is the structure of this years draft class. We have an extremely deep class as far as the middle rounds are concerned, but it is one of the least top heavy drafts in recent memory, meaning that by the time the late 1st round rolls around there will be few, if any, players really worthy of a first round pick. So if a team, like the Ravens at 29th overall, were to decide that they didnt think a true value player would be availiable for them at their position, they could be inclined to dig deep and offer Wallace a deal and hand over their draft pick, which like I said, they might think is not worth what the draft value board would normally say it is.
To put it bluntly, unless Vontaze Burfict can get his head on straight and learn some discipline, Mike Wallace is better than any player the Ravens could possibly draft at 29th. the Ravens have been grasping at straws trying to get a complete WR group for years (they are closer than they have ever been right now with Smith and Boldin) but they havent been able to do so. This would immediately give the Ravens one of the top 3 WR groups in the NFL(if not the best overall). essentially the Ravens would cut Evans (I would like to see him back but if they were to go after Wallace there is just no way to carry him), cut Foxworth (I’m still hoping he decides his knee is to jacked up and retires which would save the Ravens an additional 2 million on the cap) and Carr (they dont need him anymore and he can be easily replaced by a mid round draft pick at about 1/8th the cost), give up their first round pick and about 15 million of their cap space (which including these cuts would be about 28 million). that leaves 13 million in cap space, Flacco gets extended but that shouldn’t affect this years cap, if Rice gets tagged they would have about 4 million left, if he gets a new deal they would have about 8. That means the Ravens would have to let Grubbs and JJ both walk in free agency, probably Redding and McClain(who is probably gone anyway) as well.
That might sound like a lot to pay at first but if you break it down, it isnt so bad. McClain and JJ were both almost definitely gone because Ravens LBs are always over valued when they hit the open market. The only way that Grubbs was coming back was if Rice got a deal in the next 15 days(which is extremely unlikely) so he isnt much of a loss(all things considered). that means essentially the Ravens would trade a 1st round pick, and lose Cory Redding in exchange for Mike Wallace. that doesnt really sound all that bad to me. It would give the Ravens a major boost offensively(try guarding Smith and Wallace on the outside and Boldin in the slot, plus Ray Rice, plus the TEs…good luck) and it would severely weaken the Ravens biggest threat in the division(and maybe in the conference). its not to bad of a deal.
All that said, I wouldn’t hold my breath about it. Ozzie Newsome values draft picks like they are gold bricks. Very, very rarely is a player ever good enough to even consider parting with a high draft pick for, but if ever there were a time to venture in to restricted free agency, now would be the time. I just cant imagine this deal going down. It would be a very very high price to pay for a WR who is a glorified one trick pony and has a tendency to disappear at times. I could be wrong though. Who knows how this will all play out?