Mike Wallace was brought to South Beach to be Ryan Tannehill's go-to receiver. The Dolphins made Wallace one of the highest paid receivers in the league. The Dolphins expected much more than this for the largest contract they ever offered a free agent.
So far this season, Wallace has totaled 40 receptions, 495 yards and just one receiving touchdown—on pace for 80 receptions, less than 1,000 yards and two touchdowns. $60 million should get you a lot more than that.
Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald put the Dolphins expectations into words flawlessly:
"When the Dolphins signed Mike Wallace to that $60 million contract that was the largest Miami ever gave any free agent, they bargained for a player that could change the team's personality. The Dolphins paid for a deep-threat receiver to turn a lethargic, almost stagnant offense into a quick-strike attack."
It's safe to say that hasn't played out over the first nine games. Wallace is on pace to have fewer receptions, yards and touchdowns than Brandon Marshall had in his final season with Miami. Marshall was being paid considerably less than Wallace, and he had Matt Moore and Chad Henne throwing to him, neither of whom are as capable as Tannehill. If they were, Henne wouldn't have been allowed to walk, and Moore wouldn't be backing up Tannehill.
Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald pointed out that Wallace "leads the league in dropped balls with nine and ranks 69th in yards after catch for receivers playing over 25 percent of their team's snaps;" Wallace is averaging just four yards after catch. I'll say it again, $60 million should get you a lot more than that.
Wallace cannot be solely to blame for Miami's struggles with the deep ball. Tannehill showed his mechanical flaws against Tampa Bay when Wallace blew past Darrelle Revis only to have Tannehill throw a poor ball that sailed too far right and forced Wallace out of bounds. It's not the first time Tannehill has made a poor throw deep downfield.
In the closing seconds against the Buffalo Bills, Brian Hartline was able to get behind the defense for what should have been a 50 yard game-winning touchdown. Instead, Tannehill overthrew Hartline by about six yards, grant it he was being pressured like no other, but it was a throw that should have been made.
Tannehill is young, and his deep-ball accuracy will improve. The Dolphins should be most concerned about his lack of chemistry with Wallace; At this point in the season, the quarterback and his go-to receiver should be clicking on all cylinders.
Tannehill has proven to be an extremely accurate short-to-mid range passer. Yet, when he was in the middle of a career best 12 consecutive completions, Wallace dropped a wide-open ball on a short curl route.
Tannehill and Wallace will develop their chemistry as they play more together; Tannehill and Hartline have great chemistry which can likely be credited to the extra year they have played together.
Tannehill has never had a receiver with the speed of Wallace and will thus have to get used to that when throwing deep. Also, the issues on the offensive line and in the running game haven't exactly setup the pass for success.
Is Mike Wallace a legit number 1 receiver?
Regardless, the enormous contract the Dolphins gave Wallace should buy you more than a decoy. Wallace's effort has come into question by the fans and the media, and with good reason.
The Dolphins were expecting the same receiver the Steelers had that made endless big plays down the field, racking up nice yardage and several touchdowns. Instead, they've gotten career lows in touchdowns and career highs in dropped balls.
Big time players make those around them better. The Dolphins believe Wallace is a big time player, more so than any free agent they've ever brought in. It would be nice to at least see Wallace display some personal pride and fight for some poorly thrown balls.
Miami needs Wallace to be the receiver he was in Pittsburgh, and they need him to be that guy starting this Sunday against the Chargers.
Miami wants to see Wallace screaming "I'm going to Disneyland!" That sounds so much better than "show me the money!"