In winning the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens showed the world how valuable an athletic, speedy group of wide receivers can be.
Right now, the Miami Dolphins could only dream of an offense as explosive as that of the Ravens, but they could get a little bit closer to that dream by bringing in wide receiver Mike Wallace.
At his best, Wallace is exactly what the Dolphins offense is missing: a speedy threat on the outside that can attract double coverage. Opposing defenses must account for his speed and that would open things up underneath for wide receivers Davone Bess and (if retained) Brian Hartline.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk joined the Joe Rose Show on WQAM 560-AM on Friday morning and expressed why he feels the Dolphins will come away with Wallace in free agency:
There's no way the Steelers are keeping him; they're not going to use the franchise tag. That's the only way they have a chance of keeping Mike Wallace around. He's going to get paid more money by someone else other than the Steelers, and I can see the Dolphins with their cap space structuring a deal that would give Mike Wallace a ton of money. ...next morning (after free agency opens), 9am press conference, Mike Wallace holding up that jersey. I'd be surprised if that doesn't happen.
If the Dolphins are looking to fill one of the most glaring holes on their roster, adding Wallace would be a good way to do it. However, Florio did not sound convinced that it would be the right move, pointing out that Wallace will almost certainly be overpaid.
He was reportedly (per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) searching for a contract in the neighborhood of what Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson signed last year—a five-year, $55.555 million deal with $26 million guaranteed.
Can he live up to that type of deal? At his best, there's no question: the answer is yes. If they need proof, the Dolphins could just ask Richard Marshall, who was burned by Wallace for a 95-yard touchdown bomb in 2011 when Marshall was with the Arizona Cardinals.
That being said, Wallace isn't exactly the type of receiver general manager Jeff Ireland described with regards to the qualities he likes in his wide receivers.
Among those qualities Ireland listed (per the Miami Herald):
- catching the ball
- catching in traffic
- running after the catch
- scoring touchdowns
Wallace has earned a bad rep for dropping a lot of passes, but in reality, he's not the egregious offender everyone makes him out to be.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Wallace has dropped 11 passes on a total of 150 catchable passes in the past two seasons for a drop rate of 7.3 percent. That is significantly lower than the league average of 9.6 percent (for receivers with over 25 percent of their team's targets) over the past two seasons.
Wallace does not excel catching in traffic, but is at his best when stretching the field. That is a component of Miami's offense that is certainly missing, as NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock described watching the Dolphins offense as being "like watching an offense playing in the red zone for 100 yards" on WQAM 560-AM in December (via The Palm Beach Post).
The Dolphins finished 2012 with 42 pass plays of 20 or more yards, tied for the eighth-fewest in the NFL. Their 14 pass plays of 30 or more yards were the sixth-fewest in the NFL.
The Dolphins didn't go deep very often, but that might change with a dynamic receiver like Wallace. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill attempted just 10.5 percent of his passes 20 or more yards downfield (tied for the seventh-lowest percentage in the NFL) despite being one of the 10 most accurate downfield passers in the NFL last year.
Wallace's presence alone could change the way defenses prepare for the Dolphins.
Look at how the Jaguars lined up to defend the Dolphins in a five-wide set.
The Jaguars have just one safety deeper than 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. Besides the two safeties, every defender is within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Granted, the Jaguars are trying to stop the Dolphins from converting on 3rd-and-5, but the lack of a deep threat makes it that much easier to defend.
The Dolphins could clearly use some assistance at wide receiver, but don't be surprised if they don't make a run at a top-flight pass-catcher at all.
Under Joe Philbin, the Packers offense ran like a well-oiled machine despite fielding a group of wide receivers obtained almost exclusively through the draft. Granted, that's much easier to do when your quarterbacks' names are Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, but it does offer some insight into Philbin's philosophies in Green Bay.
Ireland said the Dolphins went against his philosophy in drafting Tannehill. If the Dolphins are going to go against their philosophy with regards to wide receivers, breaking the bank to bring in Wallace could be a good way to do it.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.