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Is restricted free agency heading toward extinction?

If you were left perplexed by the lack of an offer from another team for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace when he was a restricted free agent, you weren't alone.

Wallace is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and is just entering his prime at 25. He's an established playmaker who stretches the field and finds the end zone. Beyond that, the Steelers' precarious cap situation meant he could've been had with a front-loaded deal.

So what happened? As it turns out, the restricted free agency system itself hurt Wallace. Players once moved regularly in this system, but now it's near extinction. According to's Andrew Brandt, between 2003 and 2008, 20 RFAs changed teams via an offer sheet. But since 2009, just one player -- running back Mike Bell -- has done so.

A lot of this goes back to draft picks. Now that the new collective bargaining agreement has lessened the financial obligation to incoming rookies, teams are far less willing to part ways with their picks.

Signing someone to an expensive deal and giving away the rights to draft a cost-effective young player is simply too steep a price.

Don't expect a resurgence in the RFA market, either. The new CBA mandates all rookie contracts to have a term of four years, eliminating the third-year restricted free agency for every player drafted between 2011 and 2020. The only players eligible to become restricted free agents will be undrafted players and drafted players whose four-year deals didn't last.

So yes, restricted free agency is headed toward dinosaur status. Don't take it personally, Mike Wallace.

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