Mike Wallace To Miami: Dolphins Make A Splash In Free Agency
The Miami Dolphins landed former Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace, one of the big veteran prizes available here in 2013.
The first reports of the deal came within minutes of the free agency period opening at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
It’s always a bad decision to overpay for wide receivers, as proven by the CHFF Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law. And reports say Wallace will be overpaid: the deal is reportedly worth $60 million.
When you consider the importance of wide receivers, keep in mind that 24 of 47 Super Bowl champions did not field a single 1,000-yard wideout. This list includes 14 teams in the Live Ball Era (1978-present). The most recent team on this list: the 2012 champ Baltimore Ravens.
But in terms of statistical need, Miami was the ideal team to pursue a big-play downfield threat like Wallace.
The Dolphins last year with rookie Ryan Tannehill at quarterback finished:
- No. 22 in Real Passing Yards Per Attempt
- No. 26 in Real Quarterback Rating
- No. 26 in Offensive Passer Rating
Wallace, meanwhile, has been on the game’s great long-ball weapons since being selected by the Steelers out of Ole Miss in the third round of the 2009 draft.
As a rookie, he led the NFL with 19.4 yards per catch (39 catches, 6 TD) and then topped that mark with 21.0 YPC (60 catches, 10 TD) in 2010.
The following season he caught 72 passes for 1,193 yards (16.6 YPC) and 8 TD, including a Steelers franchise record 95-yard TD reception in a 32-20 loss to the Cardinals.
There are two major caveats to the signing:
One, Wallace’s downfield capabilities appeared to take a step back in 2012, after the disgruntled player held out of team activities throughout the offseason and for most of training camp: he averaged just 13.1 YPC, dramatically below the downfield numbers he displayed early in his career.
A change of pace may be enough to get him playing at a high deep-threat level again.
Two, and more importantly, as you know the NFL is all about the quarterback. And Wallace had the benefit of playing with the best down-field threat of his generation in Ben Roethlisberger.
Big Ben averaged an incredible 8.9 YPA his first two years in the league, an NFL record for a player’s first two years, and Wallace’s average per reception moved largely in lockstep with Roethlisberger’s average per attempt:
|Big Ben YPA||Wallace YPC|
So there are huge questions if Wallace can be the same player when paired with another quarterback, including one like Tannehill who averaged 6.8 YPA 2012, well below Roethlisberger’s career average (7.9 YPA).
The Dolphins, however, are the rare team for whom digging in with a Shiny Hood Ornament wide receiver makes sense.
One, they have a promising young quarterback in Tannehill. They largely nee
A rookie last year out of Texas A&M, Tannehill had a respectable season by the standards of a rookie, even if it was largely overshadowed by the performances of Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson (and by Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M).
But here’s how Tannehill stacked up against another notable rookie QB.
- Rookie QB A – 58.3%, 6.8 YPA, 12 TD, 13 INT, 76.1 rating
- Rookie QB B – 54.1%, 7.0 YPA, 23 TD, 18 INT, 76.5 rating
Rookie A is Tannehill; Rookie B is Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft and the player praised by many as a Rookie of the Year candidate for leading
We’re not trying to say Tannehill is better than Luck or will be as good. Just pointing out that the statistical foundation of a good NFL quarterback is there: the efficiency numbers of the two quarterbacks were largely similar.
Finally, the Dolphins already have a respectable and even playoff caliber defense:
- No. 5 in Bendability
- No. 10 in Rush YPA
- No. 11 in third-down defense
- No. 12 on the Defensive Hog Index
- No. 13 in Defensive Passer Rating
- No. 14 in Defensive QB Rating
The Dolphins are still a team with plenty of room to improve on both sides of the ball and in the standings (7-9 in 2012). But it’s a team that has the feel of being on the rise with better days to head.
It all comes down, naturally, to the quarterback: after all, quarterbacks make wide receivers; wide receivers do not make quarterbacks. It's one of the foundations of the Shiny Hood Ornament Man Law.
But if Tannehill can build on the experience of a typically rocky rookie campaign and blossom into a solid NFL quarterback, the future is bright.
Having a weapon like Wallace in the arsenal can help Tannehill, and the Dolphins, reach that next level ... and perhaps bring some much-needed excitement back to the offense in Miami.
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