Earlier this morning we learned that Mike Wallace — the soon-to-be former Steelers wide receiver because he won’t be franchised — is the Dolphins’ top target in free agency, according to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Purely from a talent and need perspective, this makes a whole lot of sense. Brian Hartline is the Dolphins’ current No. 1 receiver, and he’s a pending free agent. There’s optimism that he can be retained even though contract talks haven’t started yet (Drew Rosenhaus, something something). Still, even if he does re-sign, Wallace — or any other top free agent wide receiver — should be a top priority.
Ryan Tannehill had a promising yet often inconsistent rookie season, and much of that was due to his sparse deep options. There was a severe lack of scoring on the outside through the passing game, or in general, as the Dolphins finished 30th with just 13 passing touchdowns in 2012. But only two of them landed in the hands of either Hartline of Davone Bess, their top two receivers.
A Hartline-Wallace tandem would be pretty swell for Tannehill’s 76.1 passer rating. But at what cost? Surely not Vincent Jackson money, right?
No, more. Wallace has already turned down a five-year contract worth $55 million from the Steelers, which is the exact same deal Jackson received last spring from the Bucs. You know, the same Vincent Jackson who finished fifth this past season with 1,384 receiving yards while scoring eight times. Wallace’s totals? 836 yards at a putrid pace of 55.7 per game, with 21 drops over the past two seasons. He’s overvalued himself for quite some time, which has ultimately led to his exit from Pittsburgh. But now Dolphins owner Stephen Ross will do what Stephen Ross does: overpay for a player who holds only moderate value.
Wallace has been brilliant in the past, finishing with a combined 2,450 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns between the 2010 and 2011 seasons. One of those years (2010) also included 26 receptions of 20 yards or more, which accounted for 43 percent of his overall receptions that season. He was and still is the proverbial burner, but the problem is that he can do little else. He’s not a threat over the middle, and he can’t take a short pass and turn it into a long gain while accumulating yards after the catch similar to, say, Michael Crabtree.
He does one thing, and in the NFL when you can only do one thing, defenses and defensive coordinators usually figure out how to stop or at least severely limit that one thing. That’s why this year he had seven games with less than 50 receiving yards. That’s not a receiver who’s remotely worth the $60 million he’s likely and presumably seeking. Instead, those are the numbers of a player who’s vastly overrated.
From a fantasy perspective, Miami isn’t an ideal destination for Wallace if there’s any hope that he’ll regain his 2010 form, and be a productive WR2. Reggie Bush is leaving, and while there’s confidence in Lamar Miller, he’s still an unknown quantity. So there could be a lack of backfield support for Tannehill, which will domino down to effect Wallace’s looks.
Then there’s the uncertainty of Hartline. If he’s not re-signed, then Wallace becomes the No. 1 receiver, which isn’t an ideal spot for a fast-galloping pony whose single trick has been solved for quite some time. But if Hartline stays and Wallace can essentially be a No. 1 (A), the fit gets better.
He needs to be in a position where there’s an Antonio Brown-type on the opposite side of the field who can open up space deep. Without that, we’ll see the same inconsistent Wallace who epitomizes the volatile nature of the middle tier fantasy wide receiver.