I guess I'm not the only person who saw the news about the Steelers signing Antonio Brown while Mike Wallace continues to hold out. Some writers are calling it "shrewd" and a "strong message to Mike Wallace". In fact, many people on twitter and around the internet have been clamoring for the Broncos to make a move on Wallace since the Steelers aren't willing to do so. He's seeking big money, but with him only a few months removed from being Ben Roethlisberger's number one target with 69 catches for 1,108 yards, that production would be well worth the costs.
Mike Wallace brings a rare set of skills that many NFL teams only wish they had. He's a pure speedster that can stretch the secondary of a defense like few can. Certainly, he'd be a great addition for many teams in the NFL.
However, I'm here to tell you why the Denver Broncos should not make a run for Mike Wallace.
I've thought of a somewhat new theory for the way we look at acquiring football players, surprisingly because I've watched a lot of baseball this summer. Normally, I don't, because I can't stand the agony of watching the Cincinnati Reds lose, but since they've been successful this year, I've taken a renewed interest in the sport. With the recent Joey Votto injury, the Reds are without a left handed hitter. Talks have circulated that they are seeking a new left handed hitter so that they are better balanced and can challenge the pitching staff of other teams.
I promise this is related to football. In football, the term "balance" is used a lot, usually in terms of the relationship between running and passing. The running game must be dangerous so that the passing game can be dangerous and vice versa. I'm here to propose a new way of thinking. What if the term "balance" goes even deeper? What if there are facets of the passing game that can be balanced, making other facets of the passing game more effective?
Here's an example. Remember the Josh McDaniels system? It hurts your brain, I know, but remember all of those agonizing screen passes. I'm not a masochist. I promise.
The reason that the Broncos ran all of those screen passes was to get the defense thinking about the short passing game. If the defense is worried about what is in front of them, they won't be worried about what is behind them. The mentality is perfect, but I think most would argue that the execution of that philosophy was flawed.
The problem arises when you don't have players that can challenge defenses both short and long. If all you have are speedsters, you turn into the Philadelphia Eagles offense, who missed the playoffs last year. If all you have are blocking tight ends, you turn into the Jacksonville Jaguars. Certainly, there is more to each team than that quick description, but the point remains... don't be a caricature, be balanced on offense.
What if we thought of our wide receivers the same way that baseball teams think about their hitters? Specifically, does Mike Wallace give the Broncos something that they don't already have? He's a home run hitter - interesting that I just finished with a baseball analogy and use this term - and a speedster. Don't we already have that in Demaryius Thomas? Demarius is not a Desean Jackson body type that nobody can catch because he's so small, but he's certainly fast enough and agile enough to take catches the distance (see AFC Wildcard overtime catch), but he brings underestimated speed and power that Mike Wallace simply doesn't have.
If 1 is good, 2 is better?
Of course, it couldn't hurt to bring in a guy like Wallace, right? That's the American mentality. If one is good, then two is better. Right? Not always. I'm not sold on that idea. I think we need to treat this question like baseball would. If one right handed hitter is good, why isn't 9 good? Because there's no balance. Teams that are good against right handed hitting will chew you up and spit you out. In this instance, it's a matter of resources. We only have 53 roster spots available this season. Would it be worth a 1st round draft pick for the Broncos to pick up Mike Wallace? Only if he becomes Peyton Manning's go-to guy. In this instance, I don't think that will happen. Mike Wallace doesn't possess skills that the Broncos roster doesn't already have.
Here's the way I see the Broncos balance, right now. We have a speedy guy like Andre Caldwell to go up the seams. We also have some speed and power outside with Demaryius Thomas. We have a crisp route runner in Eric Decker, who has underestimated speed, himself. We've also got one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets in Indianapolis, Jacob Tamme. The Broncos can attack every facet of a defense through the air.
This is not something we're familiar with in Denver, but the top notch teams do it well. As Broncos fans, we haven't had a quarterback like Peyton Manning that can take advantage of that many chess pieces effectively since John Elway left town. In the past, we were stuck with a Josh McDaniels screen game because Kyle Orton only had a few routes that he threw very well. Peyton Manning opens up the whole playbook for John Fox, though. He can use every chess piece on the board. So, why put two rooks on the board if Peyton Manning can attack one rook and one knight? Let's be diverse. Let's have balance.
If you're still not convinced that the Broncos would be best to just go along their merry way, enlighten me. Tell me, where does Mike Wallace get 70 receptions from in this offense? If you can promise me that he can reproduce those stats as a member of the Denver Broncos, he may be worth the large sum he's asking for. I highly doubt he can, though. He was able to get all those receptions in Pittsburgh because, frankly, they don't have a lot of other options at wide receiver.
The Broncos do.
P.S. Next week, I will be attending Broncos training camp for the first time. I'm driving 1,200 miles from Kentucky and hope to see many of you there when I arrive.