Mike Wallace: Possible Destinations If Pittsburgh Steelers Pursue a Trade
With embattled Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace refusing to sign his restricted free-agent tender of $2.74 million and demanding a contract richer than the team can or is willing to provide him, there seems little other way to resolve this dispute other than a trade.
While Kevin Colbert has not made Wallace available, the possibility exists that he could be overwhelmed by an offer (as the Cincinnati Bengals were for Carson Palmer last season) or that he could simply wait until 2013 to deal the speedy receiver.
I would bet on the latter, but here's a look at some current trade partner candidates that will likely be looking now and again in 2013 for a player like Wallace.
So, the Broncos made the big move of the offseason and gobbled up Peyton Manning to replace Tim Tebow at quarterback. The move gives Denver a more traditional pocket passer with a much more prolific record of success. Manning is NFL royalty, and Denver has been searching for that under center since John Elway hung up his cleats.
The problem in Denver is that there are no proven receivers. Current top options for Manning's right arm include overtime-playoff hero Demaryius Thomas and possession guy Eric Decker. While Manning makes any receiver better automatically, those two are far from the proven commodity Wallace presents.
The Broncos were a team I pinpointed during free agency, but it appeared that they'd spent their money on Manning. Now, they could surrender a package of picks to nab Wallace from the Steelers and offer him a contract extension.
Manning would be happy, the Broncos would have a sure No. 1 threat and Denver would become an instant favorite to go deep in the playoffs.
New England Patriots
Ignoring the fact that Wallace, who is none too happy with Pittsburgh, would see this as a great way to get some revenge on his old team, this is a good fit for both sides.
The Patriots have lacked a true deep threat and have made do with a mostly short to intermediate passing game predicated on Tom Brady's quick decision making and Wes Welker's ability to break tackles. They've employed a sturdy two-tight end system as well.
While this helped them return to the Super Bowl in 2011, it didn't net them another trophy. A deep threat for Tom Brady to stretch the field with could do just that. The team went out and got Brandon Lloyd in free agency, but his ability pales in comparison to Wallace.
A Brady-Wallace connection would give tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez even more room to operate because it would force a double-team. It also would open up the middle for Wes Welker the way Pittsburgh used it to get Heath Miller and Jerricho Cotchery room last year.
The Patriots aren't afraid of bold moves and Bill Belichick might be able to rein in Wallace's attitude a bit.
While the decision to draft Trent Richardson over Justin Blackmon looks more and more excellent by the day, it doesn't change the fact that Cleveland still has no clear receiving targets for whichever quarterback is taking snaps when the Browns open their season.
I can't decide whether sending Wallace to the division rival Browns would be a form of punishment or an invitation to suffer revenge, but I'm leaning toward the former until Cleveland proves it has a functional offense.
Wallace wouldn't necessarily be a great fit here. Colt McCoy, still holding the inside track on the starting job, doesn't have the world's best arm strength. Wallace isn't known for his abilities besides going deep, so he might get lost in the mess.
Still, Wallace would give the Browns a legitimate receiving threat for the first time since I can remember. I'm sure offensive-minded coach Pat Shurmur could find some ways to get him involved in games.
The Colts have Reggie Wayne, but he's not getting any younger. This would take some pressure off of him and give rookie quarterback Andrew Luck a very talented and dangerous group of receivers to work with. It would also give Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians (cue groan from Steelers fans) a familiar face to work into his game plans.
Arians is a huge proponent of the bubble screen, one of the most dangerous plays in football because a slight error in timing or execution can lead to an interception being returned for a touchdown unopposed. Wallace has been good at this play in Pittsburgh under Arians. He could bring that dimension to a Colts offense that could use a dose of speed and agility.
Luck has a strong arm and could definitely hit Wallace for deep passes the same way Ben Roethlisberger has done in Pittsburgh. The question for me would be whether or not Wallace, who seems to have developed a large chip on his shoulder, would be willing to sit through a rebuilding program.
As for the Colts, they could speed up that process a lot by acquiring a young, fast receiver.
St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford has been left out in the cold in St. Louis. Last season, had he stayed healthy, at least he would've had Brandon Lloyd to catch his passes. Now he has a rather unproven and questionable group of receivers at his disposal.
This is a place where Mike Wallace could go and instantly turn a team into a sure contender. The Rams have a lot of the pieces in place right now. They have a star runner in Steven Jackson, a quarterback in Bradford, an improving offensive line and a defense that will get much better under Jeff Fisher's watchful eyes.
The question here is what kind of offense Fisher will employ. He is known to be a run-first guy, but he has a quarterback in Bradford that shouldn't be shackled to the caretaker or game manager role. The problem right now is there aren't talented enough personnel to help him progress.
A Wallace addition here gives the Rams an offense that can score from anywhere and in multiple ways. It also buys time for some of the young, unproven receivers to break out opposite him. How he handles that a year after becoming upset that Antonio Brown emerged in Pittsburgh remains to be seen, however.
The Vikings are an interesting team. They have a young quarterback in Christian Ponder, a star running back returning from a major knee injury in Adrian Peterson and a star-crossed receiver in Percy Harvin who seems to generate more questions than answers.
Something that they're missing, as highlighted when Justin Blackmon was connected to them as a likely draft-day target, is the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. For Christian Ponder to improve, that is a necessary addition. For success in 2012, especially considering Peterson's recovery, it could be even more essential.
Mike Wallace would bring that to Minnesota. The question would be how much can the Vikings afford to pay him on an extension and how willing would Wallace be to go to a team with an unproven quarterback and many questions surrounding the franchise. If Wallace is smart, however, this might be just the place to strut his stuff.
Wallace would be seen, if successful, as a savior for a city that has starved after a Super Bowl run for decades. The Vikings have shown flashes but have lacked a truly great receiver since Randy Moss left town, and a truly consistent one since Cris Carter retired.