In 2013, wide receiver Mike Wallace signed with the Miami Dolphins, and was considered the biggest signing by the team during their free agency spending binge that also landed top free agent linebackers Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. It wasn’t just that Wallace was the biggest name or due to the fact that he had just signed a $60 million contract—it was because he brought hope to a Dolphins squad that lacked a premier wide receiver in 2012.
During that 2012 season—quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s first in the NFL—the Dolphins’ leading receivers were Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. Though both players proved to be good possession receivers, only two of their 135 combined receptions went for touchdowns. The Dolphins’ third-leading wide receiver on that team was Rishard Matthews, who had just 11 receptions for 151 yards and zero touchdowns.
Due to the fact that Tannehill was still green in his development as a quarterback, and the fact that the Dolphins had perhaps the worst receiving core in the NFL, Miami rarely ran offensive formations with three or more receivers.
Now you know why the Dolphins paid so much money to bring Wallace to South Florida.
Though Tannehill did grow as a quarterback, doubling his touchdowns total from 12 in 2012 to 24 in 2013, Wallace did not provide the immediate boost to the passing game as most had hoped. In Wallace’s first season with the team, he had an OK season—he hauled in 73 receptions for 930 yards and five touchdowns. Solid numbers, but not numbers you’d want out of a guy who is being paid $60 million over five years.
In fairness to Wallace, it wasn’t just his fault for the modest numbers, it was Tannehill’s also for failing to develop deep ball chemistry with the five-year veteran receiver. Because the two couldn’t connect on deep passes, Wallace’s numbers were lower than what they should have been. According to Pro Football Focus, Tannehill connected on just 6-of-36 passes that intended for Wallace 20 or more yards downfield. It was the worst rate in the NFL.
There is no doubt that Tannehill and Wallace’s lack of chemistry cost the Dolphins several games and a playoff berth to go along with it. In 2014, Wallace becomes the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL. He will have a salary cap hit of $17.5 million. This not only makes him by far the highest-paid player on the team, but the 14th-highest paid player in the entire league.
Regardless of whose fault it was for Wallace’s lack of production in 2013, something has got to change in 2014.
If the Dolphins can’t get Wallace to play like the elite receiver he is being paid to be, the team is destined for another mediocre season.