They need speed? They got the Usain Bolt of NFL receivers.
They need production? They signed a guy with eight touchdowns last year – nearly triple the three touchdowns the Dolphins receivers had combined.
They needed a prime target for quarterback Ryan Tannehill? The top name in free agency moved into the Dolphins lineup within the first available moments on Tuesday afternoon.
Mike Wallace brings plenty the Dolphins offense lacked last season, plenty Tannehill needs to develop in Year 2 and plenty this franchise needs to bring some excitement to a starved fan base.
Wallace gives the Dolphins a home-run hitter, a receiver who'll be just 27 this August and a player whom opposing defenses worry about every play he's on the field.
That would have been enough for Dolphins on Tuesday. But General Manager Jeff Ireland also delivered a surprise makeover of the linebacker corps. Karlos Dansby and James Burnett are out. Free agents Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler are in
So Ireland had a plan, followed it and this was a big day in reshaping the Dolphins. Big names. Big news. Big hopes. Big headlines. And, if we're being honest, there's big risk, too.
Dansby and Burnett, for instance, once were the big hopes and big names at linebacker. They came when Brandon Marshall was the big buy at receiver. Now they're all gone with few wins to show for it, replaced by newer, more expensive names. Will it be better this time?
Wallace carried the biggest price tag of anyone in free agency with a whopping five-year, $65-million contract. That's the nature of NFL free agency. You overpay. And you cross your fingers you don't find out why the previous team let the player go.We'll know the Dolphins are back to relevance when days like Tuesday pass silently. Just look at the teams making noise signing players for inflated money. Cleveland. Chicago. Kansas City. St. Louis. The Dolphins.
What do they have in common? None of them made the playoffs last year. Or, Chicago aside, for years.
Meanwhile, what do teams that dumped expensive players overboard like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Green Bay, New England and the New York Giants have in common?
They've all won Super Bowls recently. They're annual contenders. They can afford to let overpriced players leave their roster because they've drafted well enough through the years to have replacements ready.
Let's remember, too, the Steelers are experts at releasing expensive players through the years who aren't long-term plays. Joey Porter. Plaxico Buress. Rod Woodson. You can go down the list.
The difference with Wallace is the Steelers tried to re-sign him last off-season. They saw enough value in him to offer a five-year, $55 million contract. He turned it down. He bet on himself. And he got more. Good for him.
Wallace is just entering the prime years of his career, too, as are Ellerbe (27) and Wheeler (28). This is significant. Age is a priime reason the Dolphins wanted Wallace over, say, another valuable receiving free-agent in Greg Jennings, who will be 30 this season.
Wallace isn't a one-year rental like Anquan Boldin, released by Baltimore, might be for San Francisco. He's a long-term buy to team with Tannehill for the next several years, assuming this all works out.
That's the plan, and it's a good one on a team that lost games last year because it didn't have enough offense. The Dolphins ranked 27th in scoring and 26th in passing.
Was that on the rookie Tannehill? Sometimes. But he also had one of the the worst receiving corps in the league. Improving that was Ireland's top objective this off-season, and he assembled a war chest of dollars to do so.
Ireland made the necessary move by re-signing Brian Hartline, has signed the top free-agent receiver in Wallace and now turns his attention elsewhere.
All this has come at a cost besides dollars. Tight end Anthony Fasano, who was the best (only?) red-zone receiving target, signed with Kansas City. Tight end Jared Cook, at 6-5, was a hope to replace him, but he signed with St. Louis for big money.
That's fine. That shows there was a financial line Ireland wouldn't cross. Cook, after all, has scored eight touchdowns in his four seasons, so he isn't guaranteed impact in St. Louis. But who is a guarantee on this day?
That's the risk of free agency, for you. Or do you forget? Mario Williams carried the big price tag a year ago. He didn't do much this season Buffalo. Nnamdi Asomugha was big buy two years ago. Philadelphia released him Tuesday.
Wallace was the big name of this free agency period. It makes all sorts of good sense. It's a big upgrade. And maybe it's a step toward a a better time for this franchise when the start of free agency passes without a headline.