As usual, a lot of the free agent buzz this offseason surrounds quarterbacks. Will Peyton Manning stay in Indianapolis or will the Colts let him get away? Where will Matt Flynn land? But the biggest different maker available this offseason may very well be Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace.
Sure it’s a quarterback’s league. And a healthy Peyton Manning changing teams would be a huge difference maker wherever he lands. (Apparently he accounted for about 10 wins a season in Indianapolis.) But his health is in question, and he likely needs several months to get back to full strength, and you have to worry about 4 neck surgeries. It’s not turf toe we’re talking about, so there will be questions.
And Flynn? He’s got two excellent games under his belt, so it’s way too early to hang the “savior” mantle on his shoulders, although he’ll likely make big money wherever he lands, and he looks like a quality starter.
But Wallace is a proven commodity. He’s got 3 years in the league and is just 25 years old, so he is just hitting his stride, but has enough starting time to know what he is capable of. The last two years, he has averaged over 1,200 yards and 9 TDs per season. His career average is 18.7 yards per reception. He ran a 4.33 at the NFL Combine in 2009, faster than any wide receiver in this year’s draft.
In fact, there are only two receivers in the NFL over the last 30 years that had more yards and more touchdowns in their first three seasons than Wallace – Randy Moss and Jerry Rice. And that’s pretty good company to be in.
And unlike some of the “divas” which seem to be more and more common at the wide receiver position, Wallace has been a model citizen, hardworking, happy to block to support the running game, and appears to be a consummate professional and team player.
And while it is true that this is a quarterback’s league – the quarterback needs someone to catch the ball. Wallace could be a huge difference maker for a team looking to stretch the field.
To name just a couple of playoff teams that could go over the top with an addition like Wallace –consider the New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers. Both have capable quarterbacks (OK – Brady is much more than just “capable”) and both have great tight ends to work the field underneath. The Patriots also have Wes Welker, who is maybe the best in the league working underneath the defense.
But neither team has a true deep threat to stretch the defense and open things up underneath for the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis and Aaron Hernandez. Wallace could easily help either of these teams to take home the Lombardi trophy next season.