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Steelers speedy wide receiver Wallace to open up his options

| Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012

Restricted free agent Mike Wallace and the Steelers are working to complete a deal before the start of free agency, but the receiver admits he could be with another team next year.

In an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday, Wallace said he would love to stay with the Steelers but knows that might not be possible.

"We all know that it is a business, and you have certain things you have to handle," Wallace said. "So if I have to go elsewhere, you know Pittsburgh will always be in my heart, but I have to do what I have to do."

Wallace might command strong interest when free agency begins March 13, largely because of the new collective bargaining agreement.

In past years, franchise tags were rarely used because of the high cost of signing another team's restricted free agent -- first- and third-round picks. Under the new CBA, the most a team can receive is a first-round pick.

Teams with late-round picks like San Francisco (30th) and New England (31st) may be willing to trade a first-round pick for Wallace. The Steelers have the right to match any offer.

"I think the right piece to those guys would put them over the top," Wallace said of the 49ers and Patriots.

Wallace said if he were to leave the Steelers, it would have to be the right fit.

"I wouldn't want to go anywhere and leave the situation where I am at — that has a great quarterback, a great organization — and go somewhere where I don't feel like I can succeed," Wallace said. "This is the team that drafted me. That's the team that took a chance on me, so I would love to be there."

Wallace said the Steelers and his agent, Bus Cook, have been in negotiations.

"We are talking, but I don't know how far they are going to get," Wallace said.

Cook hasn't returned numerous emails, texts and phone calls from the Tribune-Review.

The Steelers have options.

They could place the franchise tag on Wallace by March 5, guaranteeing him at least $9 million for 2012. But being about $5 million over the projected salary cap, the Steelers are unlikely to be able to free up enough money to do that.

Another option is to sign Wallace to a long-term deal before free agency starts. However, that deal likely would have to be backloaded to accommodate the Steelers' cap problems, something players typically don't like to do.

Teams wanting Wallace likely would offer him a sizeable signing bonus that would make it virtually impossible for the Steelers to match the offer and be in compliance with the salary cap.

Note: Punter Jeremy Kapinos tweeted Wednesday that he received a tender from the Steelers. That likely means the Steelers don't plan on bringing back punter Daniel Sepulveda, who is a free agent. Sepulveda was lost for the season with a knee injury last year, the third time in four seasons that has happened.

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