NFL Free Agency: Should the Vikings Make an Offer to Mike Wallace?

Bob GarmanAnalyst IMarch 11, 2013


The NFL's annual free agency signing period begins on Tuesday. By most accounts, the hottest name on the market will be Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace.

Rumors have been rampant that the Vikings will be one of the suitors for the mercurial wideout, though the latest news from ESPN indicates this may not be likely.

While this dream probably makes most Minnesota fans delirious with joy, true stalwarts should view a possible Wallace signing with both eyes open. While there's no disputing Wallace's talent, there are many other issues to consider. Despite the likelihood of Wallace heading to Miami, should the Vikings make an offer to Mike Wallace?


The Case For Wallace

It's often been said that you can't coach speed. This is true, to a certain extent. Whatever his other issues, Wallace is blazing fast. His presence on the roster would provide Minnesota with something the team sorely lacked last year—a legitimate deep threat. Wallace has averaged more than 17 yards per catch over the course of his career. That's a significant upgrade over anyone else on the current squad.

Having a legitimate deep threat would help take some of the pressure off of Adrian Peterson. Peterson, the reigning NFL MVP, essentially took the Vikings to the playoffs by himself last year. Since teams didn't have to respect Minnesota's deep passing game, AP usually faced defenses primed for the run. If Wallace's presence forced safeties to play off of the line of scrimmage, Peterson could find even more running lanes available to him.

Signing Wallace might help provide the Vikings with some answers about quarterback Christian Ponder. There's no doubt that Minnesota is committed to Ponder as the starter in 2013. In an interview with ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero (via Fox Sports), Vikings head coach Lesile Frazier flatly stated as much.

Our guys need to know who's the starting quarterback and how confident myself and the rest of the coaches are and kind of create some clarity for our football team as we are giving them direction about where we want to go and what we want to achieve.

Some would argue that it's a mistake for the Vikings to tie their fortunes to Ponder. Others would say that it's unfair to judge the 25-year-old so soon, given that he's had a dearth of weapons to work with.

It's safe to say that if Wallace were to suit up with the Vikings this season, there would be no excuse left if Ponder didn't increase his production on deep routes. 

There's also the question of Percy Harvin to consider. The latest spate of rumors from the Star Tribune indicate that Harvin wants out of Minnesota. While the team has repeatedly stated that it has no plan to trade Harvin, signing Wallace would help lessen the blow if the disgruntled former Florida Gator forces Minnesota's hand.


The Case Against Wallace

In some ways, Wallace is as much of a distraction as Harvin. Prior to last season, he made it clear that he wanted a new contract from the Pittsburgh Steelers and threatened to hold out if he didn't get it. Ultimately, he didn't hold out, but he also had the worst statistical season of his career. By his own admission, Wallace lost focus at times last year, and didn't make the most of his opportunities.

Most NFL players have their best seasons in the year prior to attaining free agency. Wallace had his worst. Any rational fan has to wonder what his concentration would be like if he had a long-term, big-money contract.

Wallace and his agent may simply be using the Vikings as a bargaining chip. Recent reports from Adam Schefter state that he could sign a big-money deal with the Miami Dolphins as early as Tuesday evening. If that's the case, Wallace's people could simply be using any interest on the Vikings' part as a way to drive up his asking price.

Signing Wallace could also be a surefire way to lose Harvin. If Harvin is already unhappy with his contract status, the appearance of a high-profile wide receiver with a shiny new contract would certainly add fuel to the fire. The Vikings have roughly $14 million left under the salary cap.

It's believed that Wallace will make at least $10 million per season on any new deal, with some estimates considerably higher. Depending on how a contract was structured, that would leave the Vikings with less than $4 million in cap space. There's no way they could extend Harvin's contract for that kind of money.

If Minnesota essentially trades Wallace for Harvin, the team comes out behind on that deal. While Harvin has had injury concerns, there's no denying his talent. One of the most versatile players in the NFL, Harvin is an elite receiver, a threat out of the backfield and probably the best kickoff returner in the NFL. Wallace is a deep threat at receiver, and that's it. If signing Wallace means losing Harvin, the Vikings could find themselves right back where they started.

While there's no doubt that the Vikings need to upgrade the receiver position, there are more cost-effective ways to do so. This year's draft class looks deep at wide receiver, and the team could pick up a talented rookie in the first or second round. Since rookies make less money than veterans, this might be the way to go, cost-wise. 

As the Vikings know well, signing free agent wide receivers is a crap shoot. The last time the team spent big money on a wide receiver, it got one good year and a lot of heartache out of Bernard Berrian. Wallace has a very similar profile to Berrian's, and he could be a huge risk.

Signing a high-profile free agent goes against the team's stated philosophy. Since taking over the GM job prior to last season, Rick Spielman has repeatedly indicated that the Vikings will build primarily through the draft and only use free agency to supplement the roster. The plan worked in 2012, and there's no reason to think it won't be just as effective in 2013. Signing Wallace to a big-money deal could upset the apple cart.


The Verdict

Signing Wallace may not even be possible, given the likelihood that he's already bound for Miami. Even if the Vikings could get into the picture, it's probably not worth it.

Instead, the team should concentrate on placating Harvin, then go after a less expensive receiver in free agency. Minnesota should also give strong consideration to bolstering its receiving corps in the draft.

Even if they can't make Harvin happy, the Vikings could keep him around. He's under contract for 2013, and the team could place the franchise tag on him for the next two seasons. If Harvin continues to display a bad attitude, he'll only hurt his value. No one with any common sense would be willing to wreck his career by spending three years pouting and complaining. Logic says that if the Vikings make Harvin a strong offer, his mysterious malaise will quickly disappear.

In the long run, the Vikings would be better off if they took a pass on Wallace.

Author's Note - Shortly after the publication of this article, it was reported that the Vikings traded Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks for a first-round pick and other considerations. Given that news, and the high probability that Wallace will ultimately end up in Miami, it's likely that the Vikings will take a closer look at other free agent options. It's also very likely that the team will spend at least one first-round pick on a receiver. Summing it up, the chances that Minnesota makes a serious run at Mike Wallace are slim.

Still think the Vikings should make a run at Wallace? Have a better plan to bolster the receiving corps? Want to spout off on Percy Harvin? Speak your mind in the comments section below.

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