The reports that the Dolphins will target a big-play wide receiver in free agency aren't surprising since we've heard some version of this story for months now. Back in October, owner Stephen Ross reportedly told team employees that finding a legit No. 1 pass catcher was a "top offseason priority."
Brian Hartline did well in that role last season, catching 74 passes for 1,083 yards and a touchdown, but he's not a stretch-the-field guy. He's also about to hit free agency And with franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill needing a reliable downfield threat, Ross' plans remain unchanged.
"I think this is the year that you've got to do something," general manager Jeff Ireland said via the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Omar Kelly. "We're looking for playmakers on offense."
Kelly also reports what everyone already figured to be a foregone conclusion: The Dolphins will be heavy in the Mike Wallace business once free agency begins. The Steelers wide receiver is one of the fastest players in the league. Coach Mike Tomlin referred to him as a "one-trick pony" early in his NFL career because of his uncanny ability to do one thing really well: outrun coverages for long touchdown receptions.
But when Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was fired last offseason and replaced by Todd Haley, Wallace's role in the offense changed. Haley favors shorter routes that protect the quarterback, and that philosophy -- as well as the annual upheaval along the offensive line that made long-developing plays problematic -- came at the expense of Wallace's strengths: running really fast in a straight line and stretching defenses in the process.
It didn't help that Wallace skipped offseason workouts and training camp while he angled for a new deal. It also didn't help that he reportedly turned down a $10 million a year offer from the Steelers and then proceeded to have his worst NFL season. Wallace even admitted in December that he lost focus at times during 2012.
The Dolphins are reportedly willing to overlook all this because, well, they need receivers. Kelly writes that we should expect a "contract … on the table that pays Wallace in the range of $60 million or $12 million a season during unauthorized contract negotiations at this week's NFL combine."
That seems like a lot of dough for a player who stumbled through last season but the Dolphins are desperate. They also have nearly $45 million in salary cap space and it sounds like Ross plans to use it.
But signing Wallace won't magically fix Miami's offense. There's also the issue of protecting Tannehill. Earlier this week, former first-overall pick and unrestricted free-agent left tackle Jake Long admitted to being uncertain about his future with the Dolphins. And if we've learned anything from Wallace's time in Pittsburgh it's that without a capable offensive line, Wallace's talents go underutilized because the quarterback doesn't have time to heave 60-yard bombs when he's being driven into the turf.