NFL free agency 2013 rumors: Mike Wallace drawing Patriots interest

Justin K. Aller

The Patriots may be in the market for the services of one of the league's best big playmakers, wide receiver Mike Wallace. The idea of Tom Brady having incredible vertical speed outside the numbers to go along with two great receiving tight ends conjures faint memories of 2007.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady signed an extension for substantially less than his market value for a reason.

While it wasn't said publicly, the easy inference is that Brady wanted to reduce the team's cap number in order to bring players in to help them chase that elusive fourth Super Bowl ring — something only two other quarterbacks have.

Is wide receiver Mike Wallace soon to benefit from that extra cap space in New England? Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero tweeted that an agent told him the Patriots have interest in the big-play receiver, and depending on his price, it could be a scary addition to an already potent Patriots arsenal.

It could be argued Brady hasn't had a significant outside-the-numbers receiver since Randy Moss, and Wallace is among the all-time leaders in terms of deep threats. Heading into 2012, Wallace was averaging 18.9 yards per catch. In just three seasons in Pittsburgh, he became the franchise's career leader in receptions of 40 yards or more.

Wallace held out of training camp and the preseason after turning down a reported five-year, $50 million deal offered by the Steelers. The Steelers in turn gave most of that money to fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown, and talks never went any further between the team and Wallace.

The role Wallace played in the Steelers' offense in 2012 did not produce the same amount of big plays he had made in his prior three seasons. But with a pair of outstanding pass-catching tight ends in New England, it would seem his role could be little more than using his vertical speed, and the outstanding arm of Brady.

While a recent report suggested embattled Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland is looking to make a splash in free agency right at the start of the last year on his contract, news of the Patriots' interest comes at an interesting time. The team chose to let free agent wide receiver Wes Welker test the open market — something slot receivers haven't really established a true value for as of now — and while they could still re-sign him, the fact they're letting him walk could mean they're looking at his replacement as well.

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