Dec 23, 2012; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline (82) catches a pass against Buffalo Bills defensive back Justin Rogers (26) in the second half at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Miami won 24-10. Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings top WRs in Free Agency but Where Will they Land?

We’ve had the 2 big last-minute deals just before the free agent signing period begins.

Percy Harvin was traded to the Seattle Seahwaks hours after the Baltimore Ravens traded WR Anquan Boldin to San Francisco. Both deals look to be good for each team involved because of their specific situation. Harvin wasn’t happy in Minnesota and Boldin wanted more money than the Ravens wanted to pay, so in their case they at least got something in return for letting Boldin go – a 7th round pick. The Niners get a veteran receiver that will help the team, the locker room, and be a leader by example for the younger WRs on that squad.

But what about other big names like Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings?

The biggest contract is going to go to Mike Wallace. Since the Miami Dolphins have been heavily courting him and the Vikings traded Percy Harvin, they’ve become involved in a bit of a bidding war which will drive up the price on the wideout. Miami should still land him, but the money is going to be in the $12 million (or higher) a year range.

In a particularly deep free agent pool this season, Wallace is the man people want but what about others?

Receiver Greg Jennings, a bona-fide #1 WR in his own right, could be the Vikings’ consolation prize and at a bit of a discount from Mike Wallace. Jennings is the more experienced, polished guy while Wallace has the physical tool – speed – which cannot be coached.

I think it’s somewhat odd that the Dolphins are pursuing Steelers’ WR Mike Wallace and not former Packer Greg Jennings. Jennings is much more of a blue-collar hard worker while Wallace is somewhat of a hard case – one that would actually cost more to sign than Jennings. The only reason I can think of as to why Philbin doesn’t want his old #1 wideout is that there may be some sort of injury he has that makes Philbin uncomfortable in signing the guy. Just conjecture on my part, but one has to wonder about the situation.

Jan 5, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings (85) gets away from Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Cook (20) in the second quarter of the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ll recall in the UFA period LAST season, Philbin didn’t go after QB Matt Flynn with his $8 million price tag. Yes, they had sights set on Ryan Tannehill at number 8 overall as offensive coordinator Mike Sherman had been his old college HC at TAMU the previous year. Philbin had intimate knowledge of Flynn’s capabilities, didn’t chase after him, and as it turned out, Flynn signed with the Seahawks, they drafted Russell Wilson, and Flynn couldn’t beat him out of the starting position.

Wallace most certainly has the speed advantage over Jennings. He has the speed advantage over everyone in the entire NFL with the possible exception of CJ2K. It’ll mean enemy defenses have to respect that speed with safety help deep, making sure Miami’s two young running backs (without Reggie Bush’s presence) won’t be facing 8-man fronts…and likely why Minnesota jumped in the bidding war after trading Percy Harvin with Adrian Peterson in the backfield. He WILL see 8 or even 9-man fronts without replacing Harvin’s explosiveness, and they need to do so in free agency. Rookies at picks 23 and 25 in the first round won’t do the job.

Meanwhile, Greg Jennings has been the more consistent performer and producer, and probably will be a less up-and-down wideout wherever he lands than will Mike Wallace.

On the other hand, Wallace and Tannehill together could threaten every square inch of real estate on the gridiron on any given play. Wallace has the speed to separate and Tannehill has the howitzer to get the ball to him. The Dolphins do have a much less pricey and diva-like WR in-house as it is when they re-signed 6’3″ Brian Hartline. Hartline has very good speed (4.54-40) for his size and frame, and has physical abilities similar to those of big diva-like WR Brandon Marshall, whom Philbin let go almost as soon as he got off the plane in Miami as their Head Coach.

With one of the NFL’s top-ten slot WRs in Davone Bess, who can go back to exclusively playing from the slot, the addition of Wallace and retention of Hartline suddenly makes this Miami passing attack legitimate, even without much of an increase in talent at TE. However, the Dolphins have the draft choices to move up and down the board at will, like the much more talked about Niners’ draft choice pile-up and the Darrelle Revis trade talks that have been simmering.

So, it appears that the Minnesota Vikings will jack up Wallace’s price tag by $2-$3 million a year and Miami GM Jeff Ireland has to be cursing them. However, it still looks like the Dolphins get Wallace and it’s more iffy with the Vikings, but I think they sign Jennings…probably for more around the $9-$12 million range where Wallace could command $12 million at least and as much as $15 million at the high end.

The plan for paying for part of this has been churning since last season when the Dolphins drafted Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin. Fast forward a year, and pricey but injury-prone LT Jake Long is a free agent and Martin will be asked to cover the left side of the offensive line at about a fifth of the price of Long’s ROOKIE contract salary. That’s where most of the money for Wallace (or maybe Jennings after all) is coming from.

For Panthers’ fans, it means this is not such a great year to look for a UFA WR to add to Cam’s arsenal, despite the talent that’s out there. They don’t have the cap room….yet. In any case, it’s improbable for Panthers’ GM David Gettleman to make a huge high-profile FA signing on the heels of a GM (Marty Hurney) who had zero cap discipline. It’s exactly that sort of thing that got the Panthers into cap trouble in the first place; besides, it’s never been Gettleman’s style while in New York.

With the Mike Wallace/Greg Jennings saga, there’s probably a good reason why the Dolphins are chasing the faster but less accomplished Wallace over Jennings. We just don’t know what that reason is.

I guess time will tell.

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Tags: 2013 Free Agency Greg Jennings Miami Dolphins Mike Wallace

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