The Miami Dolphins will be looking to add weaponry to their offense this offseason, building around second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The team, according to reports yesterday, will target Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace as their top priority in free agency, looking to add much needed speed to the offense. While Wallace is one of the top free agents this year, he also comes with baggage.
Wallace has the same problem that infuriated Dolphins fans for the two seasons Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall was in Miami - drops. Wallace also has a reputation as a "diva," something that Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin has been reluctant to deal with in his first year with the team.
To get a better idea of what the Dolphins could expect from Wallace if they land him, I turned to SB Nation's Pittsburgh Steelers blog, Behind the Steel Curtain. Managing Editor Neal Coolong gives us an in-depth look at Wallace:
Players who even toe the line of complaining about their contracts are immediately placed in the doghouse by Steelers fans. After holding out from training camp and the preseason in 2012, it was clear Mike Wallace wasn't just in the doghouse; that house was renamed after him.
He supposedly turned down a five-year, $50 million contract offer from Pittsburgh last year. The team broke down all talks with him after that, gave the vast majority of that money to Antonio Brown and let Wallace dangle while playing under his restricted free agency tag last season.
In some ways, it's not a bad thing. In others, he's the most productive player to leave the Steelers while (well) under the age of 30 in quite a long time. The main issues surrounding him really depend on your perspective.
If speed truly did kill, Wallace would be serving consecutive life sentences. No one in the game has his vertical burst, and even the slightest hesitation from a cornerback before he accelerates is going to result in a big play. He has that threat at all times. He's hungry for that big play, and he can do it at any time against any defense.
While he's a big-play machine, his strength comes in getting behind defenses more than breaking plays based on what's in front of him. While Pittsburgh's Week 9 win over the Giants in 2012 was an example of how Wallace's speed can be used in the short field, he simply never looked comfortable playing in a more ball-control offense. He's not particularly strong, doesn't leave his feet for balls in the air and isn't going to be mistaken for one of the toughest receivers in the game. That isn't to say he's a pansy, it's just more like he realizes he weighs about a buck 85 soaking wet, and he wouldn't last long taking savage hits from guys considerably bigger than him.
He hadn't missed a game in his career until the Steelers played Cleveland in a meaningless Week 17 last year, when suddenly, he had a hamstring injury. I'll leave you to your own conclusions.
The question really becomes whether a team wants to drive its Ferrari off-road. The reality is (and many Steelers fans hate Wallace basically because he isn't Hines Ward) Wallace is not about to sign a huge free agent contract because he's a well-rounded, physical receiver who will sacrifice his body for the team, and all those other cliched superlatives given out to the warrior-like receivers in the NFL. He's a vertical guy. Not a terrible all-around receiver (some automatically translate his lack of inside routes as his lack of willingness to run them; it's more like the dude weighs 180 pounds and guys that thin don't last long taking hits over the middle), but he's not going to be the kind of receiver who can run the whole tree.
He can be effective on deep crosses and hitches as well as a reasonable bubble screen target.
But make no bones about it, signing Mike Wallace instantly gives a team outstanding vertical presence, and a guy who will draw the attention of any deep safety on every play. And if the safety gets caught doing something else, this can happen.
That quick-strike ability costs money. A simple seven-step drop and go, Wallace is more open than Roethlisberger can throw to him, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Tannehill hit Wallace deeper more often if the pair played together.
If you want a seven-catch, 100-yard performance out of your receiver, showing he's a threat inside and outside the numbers, Wallace isn't your guy. If you want the all-or-nothing, four-catch, 98 yard guy with one touchdown of 50+ yards, at a price of probably around five years, $60 million, $28 million guaranteed in the first two years, Wallace is your man.
A huge thank you to Coolong for sharing his thoughts on Wallace with us.