NFL Rumors: Picking Favorites to Land Mike Wallace and More Big-Name Free Agents

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 09:  Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts with fans after his touchdown in the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers on December 9, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. San Diego won the game 34-24.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Rumors and reported interest are flying in from all directions around NFL free agents, and it can be hard to pinpoint a favorite to land some of the bigger names on the market. 

With the start of free agency looming on March 12, we will soon have some concrete answers to these questions. In the meantime, I've reviewed the situation for three of the bigger names on the market, and highlighted a favorite to sign them. 


Mike Wallace, WR

Mike Wallace, 26, is a dynamic play-maker. While he can struggle with consistency and concentration, there is no doubting the fact that this guy can stretch a defense.

In four NFL seasons, all spent with the Steelers, Wallace has 4,042 receiving yards and 32 receiving touchdowns. 

However, the Steelers are hurting for cap space and there is evidence (via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) that some in the Steelers front office were not thrilled with his holdout prior to last season. In other words, it seems unlikely that Wallace will return to Pittsburgh. 

The Miami Dolphins are a much better bet. They have the cap space to make a splash. The Palm Beach Post's Ben Volin passed along that, after Randy Stark's franchise tag is accounted for, the Dolphins are just over $36 million under the cap. 

And they are almost certainly going to make a run at Wallace. Both the Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly and The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero report hearing that Wallace is the Dolphins' top target. 

Favorite: Dolphins


Reggie Bush, RB

So, about that $36 million the Dolphins are under the cap: it is not going to free them from making tough decisions. They have plenty of their own key pieces set to hit free agency.

Bush is the premier back in the free-agent market. He is going to get decent size signing bonus and as Ian Rapoport of reported, the Dolphins aren't likely to be the team handing out that bonus.

That leaves the Lions and the Chargers as the two favorites to land Bush. The Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett informs us that Bush will be one of the Lions' offseason priorities.  

Meanwhile, Volin—who is in the thick of the hotbed of free-agent activity that is South Beach—and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly both believe that Bush has a good shot at winding up in San Diego.

The moves makes sense for the Chargers. They can't go through another season relying on the injury-prone Ryan Mathews. 

Given the choice between San Diego and Detroit, I've got to believe Bush will head back to his California roots. 

Favorite: Chargers


Jake Long, OT

Jake Long is only 27, but he is already struggling with injuries and effectiveness. It is fair to think that he will never again resemble the dominant left tackle he was earlier in his career.

In each of the past two seasons, Long has had his season cut short with a trip to the IR.

All of this has many wondering, as Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio points out, if Long would not be more effective as a right tackle. Whatever the case, he is in for a pay cut—he made just over $22 million the last two years.

The Dolphins are more aware of Long's limitations than anyone, and they certainly aren't going to use up a huge chunk of cap space on him, and I can't see Long being excited to take a big pay cut and stay with the same team.

In an ESPN News segment, John Clayton (via Rotoworld) said that Long "could go to Chicago," and I completely agree. 

Whether you think Jay Cutler is a leader and/or an elite quarterback, there is no denying the fact that the guy has a taken a beating. The Bears need to add veteran and rookie help to this offensive line. 

I expect them to make a run at Long. 

Favorite: Bears