Okay, so he isn’t going to play for the Steelers next year, that much we know. But where he will end up is really anyone’s guess. That said, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some places that might be more suitable stops for #17.
It’s been said that Wallace has declined Pittsburgh’s long-term offer of $50million. Not only that, but the Steelers do have some cap issues that make a deal very difficult to work out. Certainly Wallace’s numbers having fallen off in 2012 from the previous year – one more possible hurdle, although some may say that holding out prior to the 2012 season was the biggest reason for that, as we have seen many players have poor years after missing training camp in contract disputes.
The NFL is becoming more pass-happy every year. So, it stands to reason that a lot of emphasis must be placed on a well oiled machine on offence – Linemen-QB-Receivers. So what separates teams with a great group of receivers? Excellent route runners, sure hands, and speed, speed, speed! Mike Wallace has some to burn.
Recorded at 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, Wallace gives most teams’ secondaries fits. Posing as a team’s deep threat, he would certainly command a lot of attention from cover men and safeties. Stretching the defence has every bit as much to do with creating space for his teammates as it does for padding his own stats. Simply, his speed is so impressive that it opens up the game for the other receivers. And that is a big time difference maker. Not only that, but he is perennially amongst the leaders in 40+ yard pass receptions.
With Wallace still only 26 years old, teams can safely afford to give him a longer-term contract and still have him maintain a speed advantage over most players.
Teams like Buffalo, Miami, San Francisco, Cleveland, Cincinatti, and Kansas City have already been rumored to be looking at Wallace as an upgrade on their starting wider receivers, either as a #2 deep threat option (Buffalo, San Franscisco, and Cincinatti) or as the pure #1 receiver on the team. There may be other suitors as well. While we can’t predict where exactly he’ll land, one thing is certain, and that is Wallace will be very well paid.
Cheaper FA Options?
Mike Wallace is perhaps the biggest WR free agent, but he’s not the only one. In fact, there are other great options out there. Here are a few other options worth noting: Wes Welker, Greg Jennings, Danny Amendola, Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe. Of course that’s not a complete list, just a few of the more notable options.
The problem is, if you buy the “speed” argument as being very valid, then you won’t see the same value in other options. In Welker you have a guy who is great out of the slot, and can get yards after the catch, but is not going to stretch the field with the same long ball capability as Wallace. In Bowe, Amendola and Jennings you have a good receivers who can make catches on the outside, but are more of a possession type guy than long ball threats. In Hartline you have a guy who has had one good year, and even in that year he was inconsistent with great games interspersed with some very mediocre ones. Does that make Wallace the best option on the free agent market? Certainly if what you are looking for is the home run wide receiver, but I suppose it comes down to which team is pursuing him.
What about the Draft?
Cordarelle Patterson - Cordarelle has a bigger build than Williams, and has the ability to stretch a defense like Williams does. He’s not a replica, but earning many, MANY millions less, I just wonder if this guy can bring enough to put up with the “rookie factor”.
Terrance Willams - Williams, out of Baylor, might be a nice option for many teams. He’s not going to give you blinding speed, but he can run a 4.4 and that is nothing to scoff at – he is fast, but not blindingly fast. He’s big, but not too big. And he runs good routes, not great. What does all this mean? He’s not ready to play at Mike Wallace level, but there is a lot a team can do with the money they save with taking Williams and passing on #17.
Tavon Austin - Austin, out of West Virginia, has more of a Mike Williams narrow frame. He, too, has big play potential. He has a great RAC and will command attention from DB’s. The question is just how raw his talents are? If he can bring what he did for WV, he might be a budget option.
Keenan Allen – Cal’s Keenan Allen is not a good trade off for Mike Williams. He is much larger, and while his speed is great for a bigger guy, it’s not “Mike Williams speed”. Of course as many analysts top receiver in the draft he will be a great pick, I’m just saying he brings a different skill set than Williams.
So I guess when we take a look at the collective, we can see that Mike Wallace is a big time player, that has tools not many have. He’s an asset that gives that somethin’-somethin’ that can’t be replicated. That said, I believe that there are enough drawbacks (in the form of Benjamins) to make the choice to go after him a difficult one.
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Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall, Wiki Commons