Both Mike Wallace and his amazing speed were expected to garner a lot of attention in the free-agent market. Today, a second team has been linked as a possible destination.
According the Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Dolphins have named Wallace as their top free agent target this off-season.
Wallace has had a tumultuous relationship with the Steelers organization, since being drafted by them in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft. The team's leading receiver the past three years held out of training camp prior to the 2012 season, after the team offered him a first-round-compensation RFA tender valued at $2.742 million. Wallace felt his production warranted a long-term deal worthy of his talents. The Steelers wanted to wait until he was an unrestricted free agent to make any decisions.
Wallace returned to the Steelers just before the season began, but he got off to a rough start attempting to catch up with Todd Haley's new offense and his teammates' level of conditioning having voluntarily skipped all of the team's off-season activities. As the season progressed, his holdout drew even more ire as Wallace struggled with dropped passes and fumbles - problems which plagued the entire receiving roster in 2012.
If the Steelers organization had not given up on any chance of re-signing him during his holdout, his comments about an inability to remain focused when not the primary passing target pushed the team's white flag a little further up the pole.
There have been varied reports of the Steelers actually offering Wallace a contract either prior, or during his holdout. This alleged contract has been defined everywhere between $35- and $60 million. Peter King of Sports Illustrated has reported the contract was worth seven million dollars per season, which adds to the belief of Antonio Brown's new contract most likely being the offer turned down by Wallace.
Whether Wallace is actually worth a contract of such a magnitude has yet to be seen, but the effect his speed has on an opposing defense cannot be denied. Evidently, the Dolphins are hoping his talents can benefit their struggling young offense, by giving 2012 top draft pick Ryan Tannehill a legitimate deep threat while stretching out defenses to create open zones for the rest of their receiving corps.
While Wallace never completely ruled out a return to Pittsburgh, it looks more and more improbable every day. Teams with significant cap space are expected to drive his purchase price through the ceiling, leaving him out of the reach of the team who brought him into the league in the first place. The Dolphins can be added to teams like the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, who have the means and desire to make Wallace a part of their own futures.
Secretly, the Steelers will be hoping for Wallace to pick the Dolphins in the end. It's bad enough when you have to lose players you have developed because you simply can't afford them; but having them remind you on the field twice per season is insufferable.