Mike Wallace Must Be Cleveland Browns' Top Offseason Priority

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIFebruary 12, 2013

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 17:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a second quarter touchdown pass with Mike Wallace while playing the Cleveland Browns on October 17, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns must find a way to land free-agent wide receiver Mike Wallace. If the Browns don’t utilize their immense cap space to land a star player, they will continue to sit at the bottom of the AFC North Division.

Many within the Pittsburgh Steelers’ organization, the free agent’s former team, feel Wallace is likely headed to their divisional rivals, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora.

Wallace, 26, is coming into his prime after several successful seasons with the Steelers. He is coming off of a down year, but that doesn’t depreciate his value for a team like Cleveland, who desperately needs playmakers on offense.

Taking a look at the current Browns’ receiver corps will make you ask where the speedy pass-catcher fits. While the young group looks to be promising, there is definitely still a need for a player like Wallace to bring the unit to the next level.

Rookie receiver Josh Gordon provided a deep-threat spark last season, but he was rendered obsolete once defenses began to shift coverages his way. He scored four touchdowns in three weeks in October and just one more throughout the rest of the season.

Adding Wallace opposite of Gordon would create a dangerous tandem that opposing defenses would have to play straight up rather than focusing on one or the other.

Travis Benjamin, another rookie speedster, struggled with getting separation on deep routes despite his blazing speed and quickness. At 5’10” and 175 pounds, Benjamin also had difficulties getting off of the line of scrimmage. He didn’t see the field very much as a result.

Then there is Greg Little, the Browns’ most confusing player. The second-year wide receiver hauled in 53 grabs on 91 targets in 2012, averaging 12.2 yards per catch. Drops still plagued him at times, but at others he looked like a polished and reliable option in the passing game.

Little emerged late in the season as a more reliable target while making several spectacular catches. He looks most comfortable finding openings in zone coverage and working from the slot, where he started two games for the Browns in 2012.

Adding Wallace to the trio of Benjamin, Gordon and Little will give the Browns a formidable wide-receiver group that opposing defenses will have to play honestly. Whoever is playing quarterback on the shores of Lake Erie in the coming years will have a much better shot at succeeding than his predecessors with that solid group.

Contract-wise, the Browns are in the perfect situation with the second-most cap space in the NFL as the offseason began. They need to spend money to reach the cap floor over the next few seasons, meaning a deal for Wallace isn't just preferred but it will them accomplish that in the long term.

Front-loading Wallace's contract would also help the team save cash for later when re-signing young talent like Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon and Mitchell Schwartz.

Plus, it would be great seeing Steelers’ faithful lower their little yellow towels as he torches Pittsburgh’s defensive backs throughout the course of his deal.

Pay the man.