2012 NFL Free Agents: Why Chicago Bears Must Consider WR Mike Wallace
So far, my predictions on the odds of the top free agent wide receivers coming to Chicago are dead on.
All the receivers I rated with less than 50 percent chance of coming to the Bears are indeed out of the equation, as I accurately predicted franchise tags for them. Of the two receivers I rated with exactly 50 percent odds, one is out and the other is still a possibility. All the receivers I rated with a greater than 50 percent chance still have a shot.
So as the offseason marches on, I'd like to revise my assessment of one particular free-agent wideout: Mike Wallace.
Bears must adapt now that the environment has changed.
In that prediction article, I suggested the reason Wallace wouldn't be in a Bears uniform in 2012 was because of GM Phil Emery's stated desire to build through the draft.
But as top free-agent receivers began disappearing from team wish lists due to franchise tags, the options available to the Bears are dwindling accordingly.
No Dwayne Bowe. No Steve Johnson. No Laurent Robinson. No DeSean Jackson.
The only unrestricted free-agent receivers left whom I personally would welcome would be Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston and Mario Manningham. And of these three, Manningham might be a stretch as the team's No. 1 wideout, and Colston has a history of getting injured.
So what was once a bonanza of receivers in free agency is turning out to be not so much.
On top of that, with many other teams having both the need for a top receiver and fistfuls of money, the demand far outpaces the supply.
In other words, the number of teams wanting an impact receiver hasn't changed but the number of available impact receivers has dropped significantly.
This is why I'm making a case for the Bears to pursue Pittsburgh burner Mike Wallace.
Wait, why should the Bears give up a first-round draft pick for Wallace?
Wallace is a restricted free agent, meaning the team that signs him must give up its first-round draft pick.
But why give up a first-round pick to get a receiver when the Bears can sign an unrestricted free agent and keep their first-round pick to boot?
This question assumes the Bears can sign Vincent Jackson—or even Marques Colston. And at this point, it's uncertain whether the team will be able to do that, given what is likely to be intense competition for Jackson's services.
Even if the Bears do pull off the coup by signing Jackson, I'll still push for the Bears to sign Wallace anyway.
In my article "Phil Emery's Realistic Blueprint for Chicago Bears' 2012 Super Bowl Run," I made the case for why the Bears' No. 1 priority this offseason is to get two top receivers—or better yet, three.
Well, the supply of top receivers has dried up, so targeting three top receivers is no longer possible.
Plan B is to get two top receivers and hope Earl Bennett can be a reliable slot receiver as the third receiving option. Not a bad Plan B.
The Bears could hope that Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd falls to them at No. 19 in the draft. If so, Floyd would certainly be one of the two top receivers the Bears need. However, with Vincent Jackson gone from San Diego, it's possible the Chargers will take Floyd at No. 18 to replace Jackson.
While some speculate the Chargers GM A.J. Smith wouldn't take a player of questionable character like Floyd, it's still entirely reasonable that Smith would take Floyd given Antonio Gates' advancing age and injuries and the Chargers' new dearth of receiver talent.
Considering Floyd's impressive combine showing, he may even be snapped up before the Chargers' turn.
The worst-case scenario is that Jackson and Colston sign elsewhere and Floyd is gone by the time the Bears pick at No. 19.
Would you want the Bears to give up their first-round pick for Mike Wallace?
And an offseason with so much hope for the receiver position would end the same way it began: still looking for that elite wideout.
The Bears cannot afford to be reactionary; they must be proactive.
For example, if it looks unlikely that Floyd will fall to the Bears, the Bears could trade down and get a low first-round pick while picking up an extra, say, second-round pick.
Or—just trying to think outside the box here—the Bears could keep their No. 19 pick and trade Hall of Fame-bound return man Devin Hester and their third-round pick to, say, Baltimore for its No. 29 pick or to New England for its No. 31 pick.
Then the Bears could sign Wallace, where giving up a low first-round pick for a player of Wallace's caliber is easily worth the cost.
The bust rate for first-round receivers is pretty high, anyway (remember when the Bears took David Terrell?), whereas Wallace is a known commodity.
With arguably the best deep threat in the game paired with Jay Cutler, the Bears improve immediately. If Emery also can add Vincent Jackson, this team becomes an instant Super Bowl contender.
No one in Chicago is really talking about Mike Wallace, and it's a shame.
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