With free agency on the horizon, the Miami Dolphins community is already debating which big-name wide receiver the team should sign come March: Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe, Green Bay's Greg Jennings or Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace.
The Dolphins wide receiver corps was among the league's worst in 2012, and upgrading it is Jeff Ireland's foremost priority heading into the offseason.
Just how bad was Ryan Tannehill's supporting cast?
Jabar Gaffney, Legedu Naanee, Anthony Armstrong, Marlon Moore, Armon Binns and Rishard Matthews all played prominent roles this season, and, well, that's all you really need to know.
Getting Tannehill help is imperative, and with approximately $45 million in cap space at his disposal, Ireland has no excuse for failure. Because the Dolphins so desperately need to upgrade this unit, everybody is operating under the assumption that they will sign Bowe, Jennings or Wallace.
Not so fast.
Handing out mega-contracts to free agent wide receivers is one of the riskiest personnel moves an NFL franchise can possibly make.
Whether it's the transition between systems, issues developing chemistry with a new quarterback or getting complacent after cashing in, high-priced wide receivers have a terrible—and, in the Dolphins' current situation, terrifying—track record.
Here's a look at some wide receivers who cashed in during free agency over the last 10 years:
|Javon Walker||Broncos||24-95-1,371,8||Raiders||6 yrs, $55 mil||11-15-196-1|
|Jerry Porter||Raiders||105-284-3,939-30||Jaguars||6 yrs, $30 mil||10-11-181-1|
|Peerless Price||Bills||84-288-3,772-25||Falcons||7 yrs, $37.5 mil||32-109-1,413-6|
|David Boston||Cardinals||56-241-3,739-18||Chargers||7 yrs, $47 mil||14-70-880-7|
|Brandon Lloyd||49ers||45-105-1,510-13||Redskins||6 yrs, $30 mil||23-25-379-0|
|Roy Williams*||Lions||60-262-3,884-29||Cowboys||6 yrs, $54 mil||40-94-1,324-13|
|Bernard Berrian||Bears||58-150-2,197||Vikings||6 yrs, $42 mil||51-138-1,925-11|
|Laurent Robinson**||Cowboys||14-54-858-11||Jaguars||5 yrs, $32 mil||7-24-252-0|
|**Still with team|
Not only does history issue a stern warning to the Dolphins, but Bowe, Jennings and Wallace all come with red flags of their own.
Bowe, for starters, comes with a disconcertingly long list of issues. He has developed a reputation as a diva, though his teammates will tell you that is unwarranted. Even so, there's no denying Bowe's penchant for drama.
He has drawn fire for running his mouth, was suspended in 2009 for violating the league's steroids policy, butted heads with former head coach Todd Haley and has repeatedly voiced his desire to leave Kansas City. Not to mention, he has been wildly inconsistent from a statistical standpoint in his six NFL seasons.
The Dolphins rid themselves of Brandon Marshall and Chad Johnson because of their respective attitude issues, so they'd look awfully hypocritical for signing Bowe.
Greg Jennings, meanwhile, turns 30 in September and missed most of the 2012 regular season while recovering from groin surgery. He also missed three games with a sprained knee in 2011 and suffered a concussion this summer.
Then, there's Mike Wallace, whose lethal speed and age (youngest of the three) makes him a unique option. But, what else does he bring to the table beside speed? Wallace has never caught more than 72 passes in a season. He also just completed his worst season since 2011, registering only 64 receptions for 836 yards.
Does he really deserve to be paid amongst the league's best wide receivers?
Jeff Ireland's tenuous standing with the Dolphins further complicates this whole situation. He's fending for his job this year, so rather than take what might be the most sound approach—building through the draft (this class is loaded with wideouts)—he's going to splurge on one of these wideouts assuming the opportunity presents itself.
I'm not saying the Dolphins shouldn't pursue a wide receiver in free agency. After all, there are success stories. Sidney Rice and Vincent Jackson, for example, both cashed in big on the open market and have justified their contracts so far.
And, for the record, I think Miami should make a substantial push for Greg Jennings, whose familiarity with Joe Philbin, consistency, personality and marketability make a perfect fit.
But, before you continue clamoring for the Dolphins to sign a big-name wideout at all costs, acknowledge the glaring caveats that come with such a move.
It's one that could set this team back yet again.
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