Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An Honest Opinion on Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown; Free Agent Updates

by Jayden Matthews

The free agency circus has started and, as expected one, the free agency signing period has Steelers Nation at each other’s throats. Mike Wallace signed with the Miami Dolphins yesterday as expected and got the big contract he wanted: five years, $65 million with $30 guaranteed. Congrats to you Mikey, hope it all works out for you. I am not going to be bitter towards Wallace that is not my style, never has been, but I will be honest.

The reason Steelers fans are tearing at each other is there are some that believe this will cripple the Steelers offense. There are some who feel that this was a good move by the front office to let him go. But I have even also been seeing that others hope the Steelers "stink" this season because of letting Wallace go to free agency. Time will tell on that whether it was a good move or not so good of a move.

The reason a lot of fans are up in arms was the way Wallace and his agent handled the whole situation going into last season. He wasn’t the first and will surely not be the last. Then the ones that wanted Wallace to stay are up in arms because Antonio Brown was signed. I have been seeing this was a bad move. Well, is it actually? I've seen that Brown wasn’t as productive as Wallace was last season and had more drops and missed passes than Wallace. Did he? Well the numbers say otherwise.

Per stats:

Mike Wallace: 64 receptions to 119 targets, 836 yards, eight touchdowns, 53.8% reception percentage, averaged 13.1 yards per catch, 33 receiving first downs, two fumbles (losing one).

Antonio Brown: 66 receptions to 105 targets, 787 yards, five touchdowns, 62.8% reception percentage, averaged 11.9 yards, 43 receiving first downs, two fumbles (losing one).

Just for good measure, I will throw in the production of Emmanuel Sanders who will move up from the 3rd wide receiver spot to the 2nd spot. Some people have said that he was a waste too. But, again, his numbers say otherwise:

Emmanuel Sanders: 44 catches to 74 targets, 626 yards, one touchdown, 59.5% reception percentage, averaged 14.2 yards per catch, 31 receiving first downs, two fumbles (losing both).

Notice that Sanders had only two fewer first down receptions while playing many fewer snaps and getting many fewer touches. Pretty good I would say for a third-string wideout/slot man. Wouldn't you say so?

What I am seeing here and what a lot of fans do not want to see, outside of three more TDs and a few more yards, is that Brown was just as consistent. So, that is why I cannot understand: is all the Brown hate because Wallace wanted to leave? This was his choice. They say that Brown got Wallace’s contract, but that is not the case, either. The same contract that was offered to Wallace and he chose to play his tender out and test the free agency waters. It paid off for him, and the Steelers knew they needed to keep at least one of them. They couldn't let both of them walk, could they?

I will be the first to admit that Wallace did stretch the field, as he is the owner of 19 TDs for 30 or more yards, the most of any NFL wideout since 2009. That is very impressive. Brown has been just as clutch, though. Though he may not have as many TDs Wallace, he has come up with play-after-play when they were needed. It’s funny how some forget the "boombox catch" that sent the Ravens packing in 2010 playoffs. Remember that? I bet you won’t admit it, though.

The only issue that I had with Wallace was that he did not fight for the ball. That is one thing that all receivers should do. That is something I have seen Brown do on several occasions. Yes, with the loss of Wallace, Brown will now draw the double coverages. This will be again the tale of the tape as to whether his contract was a mistake or not. If he proves that he wasn’t the wrong one to sign, will the negative Nancy’s or Ned’s admit they were wrong? I doubt it.

Last season, none of the wide receivers had anything to brag about. They were neither prolific nor overly consistent. They all had their issues with missed opportunities, fumbles and dropped passes. The only consistent receiver the Steelers had was Heath Miller, who will miss games this season. That, to me, is truly something to worry about, not the hub-bub that has been going on the past couple of days.

I know this post will offend some but, like others, I am entitled to my opinion. I feel that it wasn’t a mistake to sign Brown. I think it is too early to make that call. Just like it is too soon to say whether the Steelers made a mistake not signing Wallace (not that they had the money this offseason to do it in the first place). He may go to Miami and light it up, we don’t know yet. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Brown may go on a roll themselves and start lighting it up. Again, time will tell.

Just giving my honest opinion on why I don’t think it will hurt us as bad as some think, and we didn’t make as big of a mistake as some want to think in signing Brown. But again they are entitled to their opinion and I respect that, as I hope they respect mine. I know they say speed can’t be taught, but I also know it can be replaced.

With the signings from the Steelers Front office, they are quietly showing that they are making the necessary moves to get this team back on track. Do I think we will be a contender? Probably not, but I think we are headed in the right the direction.


TIDBITS: Buck linebacker Larry Foote was signed to a three-year contract Tuesday. The complete terms weren't disclosed, but he will receive $2.5 million as a signing bonus. This makes sense considering he won't see the completion of this contract. But it needed to happen in order to get someone in to be groomed for the position before his departure.

Plaxico Burress was re-signed by the Steelers on Tuesday to a one-year veteran minimum deal, which should be approximately $940,000 for a player of his tenure.

The Steelers restructured the contract of LaMarr Woodley on Tuesday to save $5 million in Salary Cap space. If It Ain't Steel suggested before that the Steelers may wait to restructure after seeing whether he came back in shape or not. Though they go ahead and restructure, they still only did so for less than what could have. Keep an eye on this one...this will be a proving year for him.

In addition to Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall signed a one-year deal with (who else?) the Arizona Cardinals for $2.5 million.

Steelers officially release offensive lineman Willie Colon. It is a June 1st designated cut, so the $5.5 million saved won't take affect until then. However, it brings with it a dead money hit of $4.9 million in 2014, and his salary will be split over the next two seasons. The Hofstra product was a fourth-round draft pick in 2006. In three of his seven years he was on the injured-reserve list.

The Steelers signed free agent QB Bruce Gradkowski Wednesday morning to a three-year deal, terms undisclosed. Gradkowski, who beat the Steelers 27-24 in 2009 while with the Oakland Raiders, has a career 6-14 record. The 30-year-old QB will likely be the backup going forward with Uncle Charlie Batch playing third-string if he is indeed brought back.

The Steelers signed tight end/H-back/fullback David Johnson to a one-year deal. With Heath Miller being surely PUP listed for the first six games, DJ will likely return to TE allowing Will Johnson to be left at fullback.

Dan Connor, former inside linebacker of the Dallas Cowboys, visited the Steelers. Indianapolis Colts free agent inside linebacker Moise Fokou will also visit the Steelers this week. Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, the 27-year old Fokou had 43 total tackles, one sack and one forced fumble last season. Bringing in a second inside linebacker this week is an indication of lack of complete faith in the LBs behind Foote and Lawrence Timmons, as well as a desire to get younger at the Buck position.

Exclusive Rights free agent DeMarcus Van Dyke signed his tender on Tuesday. ERFAs have no choice but to sign their tenders or they simply won't play at all, for anyone else, that season. The ERFA tender this season is $550,000.