By Bob Evans
It is that time Cleveland Browns fans, the wonderful season of speculation and rumors that leads up to the beginning of free agency and the NFL Draft. On this week’s edition of who is coming to Cleveland, it appears that Mike Wallace—wide receiver for the hated Pittsburgh Steelers—is the latest to “have a good chance” at donning the orange and brown next season.
According to a report from NFL.com, CBS Sports insider Jason La Canfora has spoken with people in the Steelers organization who “believe the division-rival Cleveland Browns are Wallace’s most likely landing spot next month.”
Thanks to currently being nearly $50 million under the salary cap, the Cleveland Browns and their new owner Jimmy Haslam have been labeled as potential landing spots for numerous potential free agents. From Wallace to Joe Flacco, Cleveland has been in the spotlight as a team that could end up making a culture changing splash in free agency.
The NFL.com article reports Wallace is looking for a contract similar to Vincent Jackson’s five-year, 55 million dollar deal from last offseason—which is obviously something the Browns could afford if they wanted to. But the question is, will the Browns pony up the money for Wallace’s services?
Before we break this possible acquisition down, Browns fans need to immediately let go of any ill feelings they have toward Wallace because he has been wearing black and yellow the past four seasons. The 26-year old has racked up 4,042 yards, 235 receptions and 32 touchdowns during his young career and would provide an instant upgrade to the roster.
From the moment the NFL.com report was released, the Cleveland media was quick to jump on the “no thanks” bandwagon because of Wallace’s demands of a new contract last season. While this writer is not a fan of a player complaining about wanting a new contract, his ability to stretch the field, while adding a new dimension the Browns’ offense hasn’t seen since returning to Cleveland and gaudy statistics since joining the league, outweigh the bad with Wallace.
With youngsters Josh Gordon and Greg Little already on the roster, Wallace would instantly add the speed/stretch the field element the Browns’ receiving corps is in major need of. Many people thought that would be 2012 rookie Travis Benjamin, but he was very rarely utilized in that role last season.
With Wallace and Gordon lining up on the outside, Little would assume a more natural No. 3 receiver role. His ability to take short slants and underneath routes and make things happen after the catch is perfect for this role. Not to mention since being cured of his case of the dropsies by Alonzo Mourning, Little has performed like a completely different receiver—emerging as a legitimate No. 2 threat in the process.
Let’s also not forget about the impact Wallace’s presence will have on second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden. After struggling in his rookie year, Weeden will be transitioning to a more vertical offense which focuses on working the ball down the field. And I don’t know about you, but what better of a present could Weeden receive than a player who excels at stretching the defense?
In recent history, the Browns have not been known to make big splashes in free agency. Even after purchasing the Browns, Haslam stated the team would continue to build through the draft. However, this is too big of an opportunity to pass on if it is there.
Signing Wallace is a game-changer that shows the NFL your organization is done being pushed around. Not to mention it weakens your most hated rival by taking away their starting quarterback’s most dangerous receiver.
If bringing Wallace to Cleveland is a legitimate possibility like the reports say, this move is a no-brainer. Adding Wallace is the perfect way to usher in a new era of Cleveland Browns football, and is the first step toward being playoff relevant in the NFL again.