Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s been almost three years since a free agency class has been so eagerly anticipated by the Miami fan base. That year saw the Heat hit the jackpot with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. With plenty of cap space and some solid free agents out there; the question this year is can the Dolphins come close to the Heat’s success?
Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland will begin free agency this weekend with a little more than $30 million in salary cap space. Ireland, who has traditionally been very conservative in his moves, knows that it’s do or die time for his regime in Miami and looks to be ready to swing for the fences.
At the top of the list for the Dolphins are playmakers with speed. No one who watched the Dolphins in the last few years can doubt the Fins’ need for speed. The free agent class has one receiver who is young, fast, and a decent route runner: Mike Wallace.
The soon-to-be former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver is the top target for the Dolphins this year in free agency. But, he’s not going to come cheap. Based on deals given to Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson and Kansas City Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe, Wallace will likely get a contract worth at least $12-13 million per season.
However, it’s important to note that the Dolphins can spread out the pain coming from Wallace’s contract over multiple years and through signing and other bonuses. So, while Wallace could get paid $13 million a season, his actual cap hit could be much lower.
It’s easy to see why Wallace is the Dolphins’ number one target in free agency. Over a four-year career, he has 4,042 receiving yards on 235 catches plus 32 touchdowns. He averages 17.2 yards per catch for his career and 64 yards per game.
Theoretically, Wallace would give the Dolphins a deep threat for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to throw downfield to at any time. That, in turn, would force the defense to deepen the safeties and cornerbacks and give Tannehill more space to thrown into the middle of the field.
Wallace could stand to be a little bit better of a route runner, but his presence on the field is enough to force defenses to give more space for his deep speed.
If the Fins can sign Wallace, it would give the Dolphins a wide receiving corps of Wallace, Brian Hartline (who is expected to sign before free agency), and Davone Bess. The Fins could also use a second or third round pick on a wide receiver as well.
Past the tight end position, the Dolphins will have to decide what to do at tackle with Jake Long most likely out of the picture. Tight end will also be a position the Dolphins have to tackle in free agency and the draft.
The Dolphins have options this season for the first time in a long time thanks to cap management over the past few seasons by Ireland. Owner Stephen Ross is ready to write the checks and the only thing left is to finally bring the playmakers to Miami.
While expecting a Heat-style haul is not reasonable, the Dolphins can go a long way towards getting back into the playoffs with a strong free agency class and a solid draft this year.