It's a hat trick! Eric brought you the news earlier this week that the Vikings (along with the Dolphins) could be interested in Mike Wallace's services. Then Chris brought you a piece why he thinks it's a whole lotta hogwash. And now I offer why I think not only is it possible the Vikings could make said pursuit, but why it's a good idea.
Many have pointed out that splashy free agencies really aren't Rick Spielman's thing. This is true to an extent. The big-time push of yesteryear that we once saw was a product of the Triangle of Authority, and supposedly many of the big name acquisitions- Jared Allen, Brett Favre, etc.- were more the brain children and doings of Brad Childress. Having witnessed the absolute collapse of 2010 and 2011 that this led to, Spielman has understandably had a far more low-key approach to FA.
HOWEVAH. Sometimes we tend to blow things slightly out of proportion; this is natural for we sports fans. We forget this is only the second actual offseason of Rick Spielman as an actual, factual GM. Just because he did next to nothing last year doesn't mean we'll see the same this year. And besides, we tend to forget Spielman did make a major FA move- the acquisition of John Carlson. No, it wasn't splashy in terms of results, but Spielman did show he will spend major cash if he thinks it's smart. It wasn't, by the way. Not that time. But that's neither here nor there- it showed that yes, Spielman will make a big move.
"But Kyle!" you complain. Seriously, stop whining. "Spielman already said that they won't make big FA moves." To which I reply: "You believed something Rick Spielman said in the offseason?!" C'mon now, you're better than that.
So why would Wallace possibly be Spielman's target? Well, first off, at 26 he's got lots left in the tank and is still in his prime, peak performance time period, and will be for some time to come. Spielman has shown that he focuses on younger guys that can come in and play for years to come, not stop-gaps unless the position absolutely needs it. While Greg Jennings is also under 30, he's still 3 years more into the game than Wallace. I'm not saying Jennings is an old man or will be washed out in a few years, but he will need replacing far sooner than Wallace.
Secondly, Wallace is a wide receiver. And a pretty good one at that. See, if there's any one player on the team that can be considered ‘conjoined at the hip' to Spielman, its Christian Ponder. Not Percy Harvin or Jared Allen or even Adrian Peterson; it's that first round QB who signaled his first major move in the post Chilly era (although technically it was before he was the full GM). While Spielman could likely survive the fall and replacement of said QB (assuming the Vikings continue to build and succeed), it would still represent a rather large blemish on his record. There was a ‘conspiracy theory' a while back that the reason MBT was kept over Sage Rosenfals was so that Leslie Frazier would essentially be forced to play Ponder no matter what- in essence, Spielman ensured that his HC would play his QB through the season. Now whether that was true or not (and I am partially inclined to believe it), the truth remains that Spielman has a major vested interest in ensuring Ponder's success.
With the O-line largely fixed (sans an upgrade or two at guard), the RB position absolutely set and the TEs generally a source of strength (Carlson again aside), the one thing everyone agrees Ponder needs to succeed is a far superior WR corps. Already the Vikings have made a move there by releasing veteran Michael Jenkins, who while an all-around good guy, was just never cutting it. Essentially this means the Vikings receivers consist of Harvin (who may or may not be back), Jarius Wright, Greg Childs (who also may or may not be back), and... I think someone else, I don't know. They're not worth noting. But the point is we've got to boost that area of our attack for our offense- and its QB- to succeed. And Wallace could come in and immediately be a major contributor to that. He not only is a WR, he's the kind of WR this team needs: a field-stretching wide out. That's why guys like Danny Amendola and Wes Welker, in my opinion, never figured into the mix: they're primarily slot guys. And even if Harvin leaves, Wright is likely a good enough replacement to not worry about that. We don't just need a WR: we need a WR who can consistently and successfully line up on the outside. And Wallace, as it turns out, can apparently do that.
"But Kyle," you say in a calmer voice. Thank you. "The draft is coming and there are some good WRs there." This is true. BUT. If we lose Harvin and Childs isn't set to return, which is a real possibility (as well as the possibility that when he does return, he either gets injured again or doesn't have the same skills as before), we need more than one WR. And we have other holes on this team as well- primarily LB. Spielman isn't likely to focus so strongly on Ponder and his needs as to forget the fact that our defense also has some holes, holes that if filled, could make that side of the ball outstanding. By picking up Wallace, Spielman can focus on some other needs as well as a more BPA strategy- IMO the best strategy for the draft- rather than hyperfocusing on our glaring emptiness at WR. We will still likely draft a receiver, but considering again we have somewhere between 1-3 on the roster right now (and, again, I'm sure there's some other receiver there), it's not like the term ‘overkill' will be applied to that situation anytime soon. While I am by and large against FA spending sprees (*cough*Eagles*cough*), FA does allow you to patch up one hole while focusing on the others in the draft. And again at 26, Wallace represents much more than a ‘patch'; he could be a Viking for quite some time.
"But Kyle," says Ted in a disguise. YOU'RE NOT FOOLING ANYONE TED. "What about Harvin and his contract situation?" Well, see, I would disagree that paying Wallace means we won't be able to pay Harvin. I am still expecting our salary cap to open up a bit more soon, with something happening on the Jared Allen and Kevin Williams contract fronts. Will it eat up a lot of our space? Sure. But so long as we structure everything so as to avoid any major issues in the future, so what? The NFL isn't won by having the greatest cap space; it's more likely that proper cap usage and management will build you a winning team. Empty cap space is nice at the beginning of the offseason, sure, but left unused it can sometimes represent players who weren't signed that could have been major contributors. If you look at cap space across the NFL, you quickly realize that it has very little to do with success. One on end you have the Dolphins and Browns, who suck but have lots. Then you have the Bengals who are a dangerous team on the rise and also have lots. On the other end you have the 49ers and the Falcons, who are solid contenders, and the Cardinals, who suck. So there's really not a lot of correlation between having cap space or not, and having success or not. It's all about managing it and using it wisely, and I generally believe in our FO to do just that. (Carlson, once more, aside.)
But would Spielman tie up so much cap space in just one position? Again, returning to his need for Ponder's success, I dare say he would. The thing is, if Ponder has AD to hand off to, Kyle Rudolph, Harvin, and Wallace to throw to, and guys like Matt Kalil and John Sullivan protecting him, then if he's ever going to succeed it will be then. He'll be entering his third year after a rough start and an up-and-down inaugural season as a starter from day one. At that point all excuses will be removed. Even with Bill Musgrave likely bungling things straight to hell at times, Ponder will either shine or reveal himself to be someone who should not be a starting QB in the NFL. So yes, in my opinion, Spielman would be willing to tie up a fair portion of the cap in just the WR position.
There is of course one final "but Kyle" someone will bug me with. And that's the attitude issue. With Harvin already having caused some headaches (that pun is massively overused, I know) and Wallace's recent issues with the Steelers, one would indeed wonder how things might work out in a locker room that has the two of them combined. Frankly, as I have wrote about ad nauseum, I think the rumors of Harvin being a locker room cancer are wildly exaggerated. And I don't see the two of them somehow combining into a two-headed attitude monster; in all likelihood I actually expect them to probably largely ignore each other. I believe in Frazier's ability to lead a locker room and maintain calm at all times. Yes, the Vikings have made ‘character' a key quality in what they are looking for, but keep in mind they opted to bend over backwards to keep Chris Cook after his ‘incident', and they gave Jerome Simpson a shot to be a major factor in the team even knowing the guy would miss some games due to a suspension and prison time. They're smart enough to know that while a locker room of malcontents and a-holes is not likely to equal success, that this being the NFL, you're going to have to deal with a few ‘trouble children' to have a winning team.
So there you have it, folks. More Mike Wallace stories for your reading pleasure. We'll see sometime next week who was right: me or Chris. Either way Ted is wrong, and that's all that's important. But what about you, fellow Viking fandom? What say you?