|Free Agent Snapshot: Mike Wallace||02.20.12 at 11:22 pm ET|
We continue our look at 15 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency this offseason with a breakdown of wide receiver Mike Wallace. With the understanding that the NFL’s franchise tag window is from now until March 5 (which means some of these players we list could ultimately be retained by their team) here are some players worth keeping an eye on that might be a fit in New England when free agency begins March 13:
Position: Wide receiver
Weight: 199 pounds
Wallace is a restricted free agent, which would mean that depending on what sort of tender the Steelers place on the receiver, the Patriots could be forced to give up as much as a first-round draft pick. But New England had four selections in the first two rounds (including No. 27 and No. 31 overall), and would likely embrace the idea of giving up one of its two first-round choices to Pittsburgh, which is struggling with cap woes. (For what it’s worth, I would be drummed out of the media corps if I wrote a story about Wallace and didn’t include the fact that New England had the option to take him in the 2009 draft and went with Brandon Tate instead.)
You need a field stretcher? Wallace is the best option out there, even as an RFA. This past season with the Steelers, he had 72 catches for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns, and averaged 16.6 yards per catch. He had 18 catches of 20-plus yards and was tied for third in the league with seven catches for 40 or more yards. (For perspective, Wes Welker led the Patriots in 2011 with four catches of 40-plus yards.) In two career games against New England, Wallace had 15 catches (13 of them for a first down) for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
There is historical precedent for this sort of thing happening with a receiver who has torched them in the past: We are simplifying things a bit, but Wes Welker was a restricted free agent, but the Patriots were able to pry him away from Miami for a second-round pick before the 2007 season, eventually signing him to a five-year deal.
And finally, Wallace also passes what we call the Rosevelt Colvin Test: Bill Belichick has gushed about him on several occasions, with little or no provocation. Prior to the Patriots-Steelers game in October this past year, here was Belichick on Wallace: “He’s a big-play receiver. He’s really fast. … Nobody is going to catch him, so you have to be careful about how much space he gets when he catches the ball. I think he’s improved a lot from when we played them last year, just as a football player, his patience and route technique.
“He stretches the field, but he can also take a short pass and turn it into a long run, so you have to defend him from the line of scrimmage to the back of the end zone and from sideline to sideline,” Belichick added. “He’s a tough guy to match up on. He’s done a good job. Obviously he’s worked hard and he’s being well-coached and he’s got a good quarterback and other good receivers to complement him. He’s part of their very productive offense.”
Why it might not work: The Steelers could tag Wallace, which would send him back to Pittsburgh at a cost of $9.4 million, at least for another year. And if the Patriots are pondering the idea of Wallace, you can be sure that there are several other teams out there who are thinking about the same thing, including division rivals like Baltimore and Cincinnati.
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