I've written at length in the past few weeks about how the market will affect DeSean Jackson's future - either in Philadelphia, or elsewhere.
But one name that I haven't brought up until now is Mike Wallace.
The possibility of the Steelers parting ways with Wallace seems to be incerasing. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an excellent breakdown of the situation. Basically, the Steelers are about $10M over the cap, and Wallace is a restricted free agent. They can serve up a one-year tender, and if another team makes Wallace an offer, the Steelers have the right to match it. But if they don't, he can sign elsewhere, and Pittsburgh would receive a first-round pick in return.
In the past, teams would have had to give up a first- and third-round pick to sign Wallace. But with the new CBA, it's just a first-rounder.
So, what does this have to do with Jackson? He and Wallace are two of the premier young deep threats in the game, and teams could have a chance to potentially make a run at each of them.
If the Eagles franchise Jackson, but make it known that he can be had for the right offer, suitors would have to meet two requirements:
1. The Eagles' asking price in a trade.
2. Jackson's asking price for a new contract.
Teams wanting Wallace (assuming the Steelers offer the one-year tender) would have to give up a first-round pick and offer up a new deal that Pittsburgh doesn't match.
Wallace and Jackson rank first and second, respectively, in catches of 25+ yards the last two seasons, according to ESPN's NFL Live. The two receivers averaged the exact same yards per catch last year (16.6). And among wide receivers with at least 40 catches in 2010, Jackson (22.5) and Wallace (21.0) finished first and second in yards per catch.
Here's a look at how their receiving numbers stack up the past two seasons:
Wallace has the edge in every category except for yards per catch. However, it should be noted that Jackson's best statistical year - 2009 - was not included here (I used the last two seasons because Wallace didn't become a full-time starter until 2010). Jackson also had two touchdowns (one rushing, one returning) that are not included in the chart above.
Both are 25 years old; Jackson is four months younger. Jackson is listed at 5-10, 175 pounds; Wallace at 6-0, 199. Wallace hasn't missed a game in three NFL seasons. Jackson has missed two games in four seasons because of injury, and one more for disciplinary reasons. He's suffered two concussions.
The two areas where Jackson receives a large degree of criticism are drops and his red-zone performance. In the past two seasons, Jackson has dropped 13.2 percent of the catchable balls thrown his way (using data from Pro Football Focus, STATS.com and my own game charting). Wallace has dropped 8.6 percent of the catchable balls thrown his way.
And here are the red zone numbers since 2010:
|RZ catches||RZ TDs|
Wallace has the edge here as well, although he's not a prolific red-zone target.
Here's the paragraph that stuck out from the Bouchette piece I referenced above:
Here's the question the Steelers and other prospective suitors in free agency must determine: Did defenses figure out Mike Wallace finally as the one-trick pony that Mike Tomlin long declared he was? Wallace is at his best running the "go" routes and outside flag patterns, where he has a chance to outrun someone. However, when faced with cover two defenses and safeties hanging deep, he's not as effective. He does not seem to fight for the ball at times and even gives up on some when covered.
Part of that evaluation could certainly be applied to Jackson.
Teams needing a vertical threat could have plenty of options this offseason - Wallace, Jackson and Vincent Jackson (also a potential unrestricted free agent) could all be available. And Baylor's Kendall Wright is receiving buzz as a potential first-round pick.
They are all players to keep an eye on as we see which teams make use of the franchise tag and which agree to long-term deals with their own players in the coming weeks.