With free agency set to get underway on Tuesday at 3 p.m. the speculation and rumors have started percolating. More than anything, Vikings fans would love to see the team address their most glaring need: a wide receiver that could, you know, get open and catch the ball and stuff. Whether Percy Harvin is on the team next year or gets sent packing via trade, the Vikes need a wide receiver or two. Or three. It is highly likely they'll draft at least one wideout, but free agency would offer more immediate help.
On top of that "most wanted" list at wide receiver is Mike Wallace, the soon-to-be-former Pittsburgh Steelers speedster who will begin fielding phone calls from several teams starting at approximately 3:01 p.m. on Tuesday.
Fans of the purple have been eyeballing Wallace for months -- ever since it became apparent the Steelers would let him walk in free agency. Those dreams got a little shot in the arm on Wednesday when Jeff Darlington of NFL.com and the NFL Network mentioned in an online article that the Vikings are an expected suitor of Wallace. Of course, Wallace has been ranked by many as the top available free agent at any position so the Vikings will hardly be alone in their pursuit should they actually choose to make a run at him. Indeed, Darlington's article in which he mentioned the Vikings' interest (in passing toward the end) was primarily about how the receiver-starved Miami Dolphins have Wallace in their crosshairs.
It doesn't take much for a morsel of speculation like "the Dolphins anticipate competing with the Minnesota Vikings in bidding for Wallace's services," (as Darlington wrote) to spread like wildfire online. NBC's ProFootballTalk.com picked up the rumor and ran an article on it. The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero piled on, labeling the Vikings as a "significant threat" to land Wallace. Vikings fans were bantering about it on Twitter and Facebook all day.
Before placing your order for a Vikings jersey with Wallace's name on the back, however, take a deep breath.
The Dolphins are estimated to have about $36.5 million in salary cap space available. The Vikings reportedly have around $15-18 million. Advantage: Dolphins.
Moreover, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman isn't keen on spending big in free agency. He didn't last year and has stated ever since that his preferred model is to build through the draft rather than free agency. Could he be blowing smoke as GMs are wont to do this time of year? Sure. Do I think he's blowing smoke? Not really. I'm guessing the Vikings' initial priority will be re-signing right tackle Phil Loadholt and fullback Jerome Felton.
Listen, I completely agree that Wallace would make sense for the Vikings. Only one team threw for fewer yards than the Vikings did last year and only one team averaged fewer yards per pass attempt (6.1). Wallace has averaged 20 yards per reception over the last two seasons. He's a field-stretcher, a burner, a guy who can blow the top off a defense – a perfect complement to a productive running game.
Some would point out – and already have – that Wallace wouldn't be a great fit because Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder can't throw the deep ball. I'm not sure we know that yet. He hasn't exactly had too many opportunities to showcase his deep ball acumen since he's been in Minnesota. I'm confident he's no Aaron Rodgers when it comes to throwing bombs, but let's give Ponder at least one downfield weapon that can gain separation before we declare a verdict on his deep-ball abilities.
Will said weapon be Wallace? I doubt it. There will be several other teams throwing offers his way. Other than the Dolphins, the Colts, Seahawks, Texans, Titans, Patriots, Bengals and Browns are just a few of the teams rumored to be lining up to shove money at him.
And we're talking a lot of money here.
The Chiefs just signed Dwayne Bowe, who turns 29 in September, for $56 million over five years. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed 30-year-old Vincent Jackson to a five-year, $55.6 million deal last offseason. Wallace, who will be just 27 in August, will get paid more than both of them.