Mike Wallace's Production with Dolphins Won't Live Up to Massive Contract

Justin OnslowContributor IIMarch 13, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 21:  Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops a pass during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 21, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Overspending in free agency is par for the course. Unfortunately for the Miami Dolphins, expecting Mike Wallace to play like a $60 million receiver may be asking too much.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the final terms of Wallace’s contract will award the former Pittsburgh No. 1 up to $60 million:

With only $30 million guaranteed, the terms could have been worse for the Dolphins, but they certainly didn’t get a discount. Wallace will prove to be yet another good receiver in possession of a huge contract courtesy of the free-agent market.

The Steelers drafted the Mississippi standout in the third round of the 2009 draft. One of the fastest players in the draft class, Wallace was expected to be a quality deep threat in an already-talented receiving corps.

In his rookie season, Wallace caught 39 passes for 756 yards and six touchdowns. It was a successful freshman campaign, and he proved to the Steelers he could be a potential No. 1 option with the strong arm of Ben Roethlisberger under center.

In his following two seasons, Wallace compiled even more impressive numbers. After recording 132 catches, 2,450 yards and 18 touchdowns in that span, it became even evident that he had the talent to justify his title as Pittsburgh’s best pass-catcher.

The production went to Wallace’s head, though, and he began a holdout prior to the 2012 season. The Steelers rarely renegotiate contracts before they expire, and Wallace returned to the team without a new deal in place.

And then the wheels fell off.

The 2012 season wasn’t all that positive for Pittsburgh. Offensive inconsistency led to an 8-8 regular-season mark, and Wallace was a big reason for the team’s futility. In 15 games, he caught just 54 percent of the passes thrown his way, finishing the year with 836 yards, eight touchdowns and two critical fumbles.

Poor quarterback play with Roethlisberger on the shelf for three-plus games didn’t help his cause, but it became clear the star wideout needed a strong-armed quarterback and a new contract to play like the No. 1 receiver he was expected to be.

Wallace has developed into a more well-rounded receiver in the last three seasons, but he still isn’t the kind of complete player who usually warrants $12 million per year on the open market. As is often the case, Miami was forced to overspend to ensure it could get its man in free agency.

Neither party can be blamed for the inflated $60 million contract; Wallace wanted to be paid as a top receiver and the Dolphins didn’t want to lose him to another potential suitor willing to shell out the addition money to acquire his services.

That’s the price teams must pay to get better through free agency.

In order for Wallace to justify his massive cap number, he’ll have to be more than just a deep threat in Miami’s offense. Brian Hartline and Davone Bess will surely benefit from Wallace’s ability to take the top off defenses, but he can’t be a complementary piece in an offense that is paying him $12 million per season to put up big numbers. He has to perform like a true No. 1 receiver.

Between the market value for Wallace and the slim alternatives available, Miami did what it had to do. It’s not unreasonable to expect him to put up quality numbers for the Dolphins in the coming years, but for $60 million, he’ll have to play like a top-10 wideout to justify the price tag.