Why the Miami Dolphins Will Regret Overspending on Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe

Vincent Frank@VincentFrankNFLCorrespondent IMarch 13, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 23:  Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers catch make a first quarter catch next to Terence Newman #23 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on December 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

One of the most foolish concepts a team can come up with in free agency is to go out there and overpay for marginal free agents on the market. While the Miami Dolphins are far from following this philosophy, some of their decisions on Tuesday are questionable at best. 

Think about the following statement for a second.... 

Paying free agents who played a supporting role on a championship team "elite" money really isn't going to get your franchise where it wants to be. Expecting those players to perform as the face of your franchise and the best players on your roster, really isn't going to get it done either. 

Dannell Ellerbe turned a seven-start campaign for the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens into a five-year, $35 million contract with Miami (via Yahoo!). While Ellerbe did have a break-out season for the Ravens in 2012, he has only started 13 games in his four-year career. 

While Miami did save some money by releasing Karlos Dansby, it is arguable whether Ellerbe is much of an upgrade. According to Pro Football Focus, Ellerbe ranked 48th among linebackers against the pass, while Dansby came in at 16th. 

In addition, the Dolphins are also investing a long-term contract on a player with only one season of solid football under his belt. 


You really do have to wonder what general manager Jeff Ireland was doing here. After all, the signing of Ellerbe came somewhat out of left field. It isn't like Dansby was a liability for Miami's defense since he signed a mega deal a few years back. He was stout against the run, and as mentioned before, did a good job in coverage. 

Listen, I am not indicating that Ellerbe isn't a good player. He possesses a solid set of skills and should be a darn productive player for the next few seasons. It's all about value and upgrades. At this point, I am not sure how much value Miami got for a minimal upgrade at linebacker. 

While there is no doubt in my mind that Mike Wallace is a major upgrade on the outside for Miami, I am not too entirely sure that he was worth the money Ireland threw his way. The enigmatic young receiver signed a five-year, $60 million contact with $30 million guaranteed on Tuesday (via NFL.com). 

With nearly $100 million invested in Wallace and Brian Hartline, who re-signed with Miami during the weekend, the Dolphins have a significantly improved receiving core. Though, I must note that the two combined to catch only 55 percent of the passes thrown in their direction last season. Those are not great numbers right there (via ESPN). 

Wallace is now the third-highest paid receiver in the NFL behind only Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald (via Spotrac). That really isn't getting a whole bunch of bang for your buck considering that Wallace failed to reach the 1,000-yard plateau with Pittsburgh last season. 

In order for a team to improve its roster from top to bottom, it needs to find value at certain positions. While Wallace is going to be a great threat down the field for Ryan Tannehill, he is only averaging 4.5 receptions per game over the last three seasons. He isn't going to be that consistent go-to guy that we see among the other top-paid receivers in the league. 

It is also important to note that Hartline's production is sure to decrease with Wallace on the roster. This seems to indicate that the five-year, $30 million contract Hartline just signed with Miami will not give it much value moving forward (via Pro Football Talk). 

After all, you will not see him accumulate 115-plus targets in 2013. The natural regression here seems to suggest 700-800 yards for a receiver slotted to earn $6 million per season. 

Just for the sake of it, let's draw a couple comparisons here. 


Team Players Catch % Combined Average Salary
Green Bay Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb 73% $3.4 million 
San Francisco Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin  64% $10.5 million 
Atlanta Julio Jones and Roddy White 61% $7.4 million 
Miami Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline 55% $18.0 million 


I am really interested to see how Hartline and Wallace work together, but for the money they are set to make in the coming years; there have to be questions about whether their productivity will match. Of course, a lot of this is conjecture and depends a great deal on the continued progression of Ryan Tannehill under center. 

While the Dolphins were smart not to match the four-year, $16 million contract that Anthony Fasano signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, he does leave a void in their offense. The veteran tight end recorded a career-high 41 receptions and tallied five touchdowns this past season. 

As you already know, young quarterbacks tend to struggle when they don't have consistent receiving threats between the hashes. This could be fixed with either the emergence of Charles Clay or a top draft pick in April, but it is still worth noting. 

I do like the addition of Philip Wheeler from Oakland. The former third-round pick seemed like a fish out of water in Indianapolis in his first four NFL seasons, but he stepped up a great deal with the Raiders this past season. Wheeler recorded over 100 tackles, six passes defended and three sacks in his only season in Northern California. 

Though, I do wonder if a veteran linebacker with only one successful season under his belt was worth $26 million over five seasons with a ridiculous $13 million guaranteed (h/t Rotoworld). 

Can we honestly expect him to produce at top-tier linebacker money for two seasons, which it would take to live up to that $13 million? 


If the ultimate goal here is to build a championship-caliber roster, I just don't see dramatic improvement from the Dolphins. They spent over $150 million on four productive players, but not a single performer that stands out to you as a major difference maker or someone that will elevate the play of the team as a whole; at least to the point of contention in the AFC East. 

Good organizations have models and follow them. They take a backseat during the first day or two of free agency and find more value on the market moving forward. Miami, who doesn't seem to have a consistent front office philosophy under Ireland, has continued to spend money on the wrong players. 

It is, however, too soon to draw a final conclusion about the Dolphins' haul in free agency thus far. They did get some quality players.

The primary issue here is that teams who contend on a consistent basis rely on finding value in free agency that supplement their draft classes. It seems that Miami is relying too heavily on the former at this point in its rebuilding process. 

I do, however, hand it to Ireland. If he is going to be another scapegoat for owner Stephen Ross, he isn't going down fighting and he isn't going to leave one penny under the sofa cushion. 

Let's just wait and see if these sets of moves turn around this fledgling franchise or puts the final nail in the coffin for Ireland in South Beach. Another mediocre slate of offseason moves could spell doom for the unpopular head man in Miami. 


Vincent Frank is a NFL featured columnist here at Bleacher Report. He was hired on prior to the 2011 season and couldn't be happier working with a great group of individuals here. In addition, Vincent is the head sports editor over at eDraft and co-host of eDraft Sports Radio, which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3-6 p.m. ET.  Go ahead and give him a follow on Twitter @VincentFrankNFL.