Cincinnati Bengals: Should Mike Wallace Be a Target in Free Agency?

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIMarch 2, 2013

Mike Wallace may be able to provide the explosiveness that the Bengals currently lack at the second wide receiver position.
Mike Wallace may be able to provide the explosiveness that the Bengals currently lack at the second wide receiver position.Joe Sargent/Getty Images

In A.J. Green, the Cincinnati Bengals have one of the most elite receivers in the NFL. His offensive struggles in 2012 were partly the result of opponents rolling coverage in his direction, thus taking him out of the game.

Cincinnati struggled to find a complementary receiver. Armon Binns, Brandon Tate, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones all tried to fit that role. Most were unsuccessful.

Binns was cut halfway through the season when Bengals brass realized he did not fit the mold. Tate was shifted back to return responsibilities after his streaky performance.

Rookie Mohamed Sanu was the best of the group, but he lacked the kind of explosion needed to scare defenses to roll his way in coverage. Sanu's season was cut short after sustaining a stress fracture in his foot while at practice.

Many fans see Sanu as the No. 2 receiver going forward. However, he would be best served as a utility player. Sanu is capable of lining up outside, in the slot and in the backfield. But that still leaves a hole for a speedy threat on the outside.

Fellow rookie Marvin Jones ended the year at that position, and even though he has raw talent, he was not polished enough to be consistently successful. He will need to learn to shed press coverage consistently and sharpen his route running.

Other than the lack of experience in the receiving corps, the Bengals lack one more key ingredient—speed.

Enter Mike Wallace.

Wallace, who is 6'0" and weighs 199 pounds, first made his mark at the combine in 2009, running a 4.33 40-yard dash. He was then selected in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he has played the last four seasons.

Known as one of the fastest players in the NFL, Wallace demands the kind of attention that forces defenses to stay honest. He is a seasoned veteran and has great explosion and straight-line speed that allow him to get behind the secondary.

Last season, after a lengthy holdout, Wallace started 15 games for the Steelers and finished with 64 receptions for 836 yards and eight touchdowns. His long reception was for 82 yards.

The biggest knock on Wallace is his inconsistent hands. This past season, dropped balls seemed to plague him every week. However, Wallace's drops are not as terrible as one may think.

Wallace had six dropped passes in 119 attempts last season. There is a wide receiver on the Bengals who  actually had more drops than Wallace last year.  That would be Green, who had nine drops out of 158 targets.

Gauging Wallace's skill set, he would most likely demand a deal similar to that of Vincent Jackson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who signed a five-year, $55.5 million contract with the Bucs last season.

After placing the franchise tag on Michael Johnson, the Bengals have $44 million in cap space. They also have to re-sign their own free agents and extend the contracts of Green, Geno Atkins, Andy Dalton and Carlos Dunlap.

But if any team were in the best possible financial shape to pick up a marquee free agent like Wallace, it would be the Bengals.

This move would create a more explosive and diverse offense, something the Bengals completely lacked in 2012. So, should they consider signing Wallace when free agency begins on March 12th?

Yes, they should.