By Guest Contributor Kyle McLorg
Although not as long as seasons past, the 49ers off-season wish list pretty substantial. In order to keep the core of the team intact they have several free agents on their roster that they’ll need to bring back, most notably Alex Smith, Dashon Goldson, Carlos Rogers and Joshua Morgan. However, free agency will open up in March, and that’s when the real fun begins. The most glaring need for the 49ers is wide receiver. The reasons why are both numerous and understood, so I don’t think I need to get into them.
Scott Warfe gave ample reasons on Bay Area Sports Guy why you probably won’t see names like Bowe, Colston or Jackson on the back of a 49ers uniform, so in my search for some hope I came up with yet another far-fetched option: Mike Wallace.
Okay, so I didn’t exactly come up with him on my own. Truthfully, until recently I’ve been out of the loop when it comes to the Steelers’ restricted free agent receiver. I’ve been so focused on names like Bowe that I completely overlooked him.
Adam Schefter reported a “50-50” chance that Wallace would end up on another team next season, citing the fact that the Steelers are already $11 million over the salary cap. Is it possible that the 49ers could land a name like Wallace?
Why Pittsburgh probably can’t keep him
Franchising him would be a difficult maneuver for Pittsburgh unless they restructured several key players’ contracts. They still have a few notable unsigned players, including Max Starks, William Gay and Doug Legursky, to name a few. That’s all without mentioning a cap hit of approximately $6M that the Steelers will take on in the upcoming draft. They’ll be attempting all of this while being over $10M in the hole, so even without re-signing him, Pittsburgh is in a difficult financial position. The Steelers’ brass claims they are working on ways to keep Wallace, but it seems unlikely that they can pull it off.
Making a play for Mike
Should Wallace hit the open market, he’ll be pursued by many teams around the league. Schefter mentioned several that may express interest including San Francisco, New England, Baltimore and Cincinnati.
The Bengals have the most cap space of the aforementioned teams with $60 million. Considering that Cincinnati has a rich crop of young talent already secured to contracts, they certainly have the luxury of going after a complement for AJ Green if they so desire.
The last two teams Schefter mentioned – Baltimore and New England – would certainly be desirable destinations for Wallace. However, I’m not certain they can make it happen. The Ravens, at approximately $7 million under cap, still has a number of unsigned players to negotiate with, most notably Ray Rice. The Patriots may pose a real threat in this race. With $20 million in cap space they enjoy more breathing room than many NFL franchises, but they have some of their own free agents to negotiate with, including Wes Welker.
Schefter also mentioned that Jacksonville will “go hard at the wide receiver market.” Not only do they need it, but they have the fire power as well with $45M worth of cap space.
But don’t count San Francisco out. Click here to find out why.
You can find more of Kyle McLorg’s writing at Ruthless Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Ruthless_Sports.