Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace's restricted free agent status has been a big story so far this offseason, with speculation flying around that any number of teams, particularly good teams and other teams in the Steelers' AFC North division, could try to steal Wallace from Pittsburgh. But Neal Coolong of Behind The Steel Curtain thinks that's mostly a "smoke screen."
From Wallace's perspective, if he gets a franchise tag from Pittsburgh, he gains leverage. They're willing to give him (estimated) $9.6 million this season, he's going to want a large chunk of that very soon in a long-term extension. Other teams are likely to figure this out, and it won't cost them a dime to simply tell a beat reporter they're interested in Wallace, and let the Speculation Machine that is NFL off-season news do its thing.
The idea here is that the Patriots and Browns aren't great fits for Wallace. Coolong argues that the Ravens and Bengals might not be that likely to give Wallace a big new contract either. Despite that, Coolong says, the Steelers will have little choice but to make cap room to assign Wallace the franchise tag. It won't be easy for the Steelers, and whatever the Patriots and the Steelers' divisional opponents might think about it, what's bad for the Steelers is good for them.