Dolphins Should Tread Softly With FA WR’s


Dec 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace (17) catches a pass during warm-ups before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins want to add a big threat WR to their roster this 0ff-season.  The question of whom and from where is as hot a topic as what the next Dolphins logo will look like.  Despite their need for a game changing outside threat, Jeff Ireland needs to tread softly in his pursuit.

The top three WR’s have the ears perked for Dolphins fans but money will also play a big part in the decision.  Overpaying could cost the team more than money.  It could set them back and the development of Ryan Tannehill back as well.  Each of the three top free agent wide-outs will command big money and none of those three come close to being elite WR’s.

Mike Wallace is the speed guy in this group and most fans want a WR who can stretch the field and bring the long ball back to Miami.  Wallace won’t be cheap though.  He will likely command a salary between 9-10 million a year if not more.  A starting point will be a deal in the 50 million range over the life of the contract.

While obviously money comes into play here, the real question is Wallace worth that kind of payout?  While he is a deep threat, Wallace had more drops last season than any other WR.  A title previously held by former Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall.  In addition, Wallace is not a good route runner and uses his speed more than his footwork.  On the upside, he uses his size well and cuts well.

The other downside to Wallace is he is not a redzone threat.  Something the Dolphins need.  While the team could go after a big TE who could pick up that slack, you would expect your number 1 wide-out to be a go to guy when it counts.  In Pittsburgh, Wallace wasn’t that go to guy and some wonder if he can be that in Miami.  Or anywhere else.

On the positive side, Wallace will bring a lot of interest to Miami from the fan side of things.  His ability to stretch the field will open up the offense and keep the secondary honest allowing Miami to use it’s running game and short option passes with better results.

When it comes to Dwayne Bowe it’s easy to get excited.  Bowe has the size and the hands to make any QB happy.  Throw it and he will catch it.  Tight coverage?  No problem.  Bowe has the frame and build that allows him to use his body to shield defenders.  He doesn’t possess great speed but he knows how to gain space in tight quarters.

Bowe will also command a high salary that should easily approach the 50 million mark as well.  In fact it would not be surprising to see both Bowe and Wallace pitting their salary demands against each other to see who comes out on top.  When you start talking about that kind of money, you again have t ask if that player is worth it.

Like Wallace, Bowe would add excitement to the fan base but while Wallace has the speed Bowe does not.  He is not a deep threat and while he can handle the number one role, he is not going to score a lot of long TD’s.  Where Wallace fails, Bowe excels.  Bowe is a redzone threat and the Dolphins need that.

Perhaps the biggest knocks on Bowe are his route running and his team play.  Bowe isn’t regarded as a great route runner and he has been known to take plays off.  In addition, he has had problems with his team play.  These Dolphins, under Joe Philbin, are looking more for a team first concept and there are questions as to whether or not Bowe is that kind of player.  In fact, many liken him more to Brandon Marshall in that department.  He is not a leader on the field.

No one is garnering more talk that impending Green Bay Packer free agent Greg Jennings.  Jennings has the hands, the route running, and the speed to make you think he is the end all answer to the Dolphins WR problem.  He may be, but his speed is marginal compared to Wallace and he is coming off an injury that wiped away most of his 2012 season.

Jennings is a solid team player that fits into the ideals of Joe Philbin who coached him in Green Bay.  The obvious connection the two share have led to speculation that Jennings is a lock to join the Dolphins in March.  Of course the same was said about QB Matt Flynn last off-season.  The difference is we know what Jennings can do.

A week ago, Jennings made his case to Philbin when he said, “Hey Joe!  Remember me?” while talking with the Finsiders.  Jennings knows the system, the terminology, and his play will most assuredly help the development of Ryan Tannehill.

But is he a long term solution or a bridge?

The reality is that Jennings is moving into his 30’s and coming off the injury.  He will not likely command a 50 million plus salary with all the guarantees that Wallace and Bowe will ask for but he will be close to that neighborhood.  The Dolphins, if they are interested will need to do their medical due diligence before signing him to a deal.

When the start of free agency begins the Dolphins will make a decision to sign one of these three or go in a different direction entirely.  If I were a betting man, I would believe that the Dolphins will go with the safe route and add Jennings. He still has a few years of production left if his injury hasn’t hurt his future.  While Wallace and Bowe would give the Dolphins a few more years of service, they easily could cripple the teams salary situation down the road without ever really giving the team the value of those deals.

I would suspect that the Dolphins will look at adding Jennings in free agency and then drafting a top prospect in round 2 with one of their 2 picks.  Bring him along much like Green Bay has done with Patrick Cobbs.  Another situation that Jennings is familiar dealing with.

Each WR brings something different to the table and none of the three bring everything.  Each has with him concerns and each has a name that will bring some excitement to the fans.  None of them however are elite names like Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald and none of them will develop into that type of player.

Yet for the Dolphins, a Fitz or Megatron is not needed.  Miami needs to add speed, like Wallace.  Hands like Bowe.  And a team player like Jennings.  All three will cost a decent amount of money and all three could just as easily become free agent busts before booms.

All things being equal, which they are not, Jeff Ireland will need to decide which of those three offer the Dolphins the best chance at success given what they already have now and what they could add by the start of the season.