Mike Wallace Would Give Tom Brady Deep-Play Threat Patriots Have Sought Since Randy Moss’ Final Days

Mike WallaceEditor’s Note: NESN.com will evaluate and analyze one potential Patriots free agent addition every day from Feb. 18 through the start of NFL free agency on March 12.

Randy Moss‘ greatest catch as a Patriot was one of his final grabs with the flying Elvis logo on his helmet.

The epic one-handed snag over Darrelle Revis wasn’t the most meaningful catch of his three-plus year tenure in New England, but it is by far the most impressive. That catch is replayed anytime a Moss highlight reel finds its way onto a segment of SportsCenter, allowing Patriots fans to reminisce about the wonderful days of pitch and catch he and Tom Brady enjoyed. But it also serves as a reminder of what the Patriots have lacked since Moss’ departure early in the 2010 season.

The current class of free-agent wide receivers seemed to offer a variety of big-play options, but with Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline already re-signed, the market has already begun to dwindle. The biggest free-agent catch of all is still on the market, though, and he could be just the player to alter the Patriots’ passing game fortunes.

No, Mike Wallace is not Randy Moss — then again, who is? — so let’s not start making that comparison. But while their measurables might be different, Wallace would offer the Patriots their first true deep threat since the Freak left town.

At 6-foot and a shade under 200 pounds, Wallace isn’t a big, physical receiver like the 6-foot-4 Moss. But size isn’t everything. What Wallace lacks in size he makes up for with his speed. He is one of the quickest straight-line receivers in the NFL today, and he’s as shifty and elusive after the catch as any running back out of the backfield — a trait the Patriots love.

In four seasons with the Steelers, Wallace averaged about 60 catches per season and scored more than six touchdowns in each one — eight or more in each of the past three.  He’s also been great after the catch, averaging 5.5 yards after the catch for his career. That puts him on an equal playing field with Wes Welker (5.8 YAC), far ahead of Moss (3.9) and significantly ahead of Brandon Lloyd (2.7).

There is always the injury question, which Wallace has successfully averted thus far in his young career. But Wallace’s game is predicated on his speed, which will not only decline over time but would also be severely hindered in the case of even a minor injury. While a frightening fear for any team, that reality holds true for any player signing a big-money deal and Wallace still offers many attractive attributes.

Wallace is still young — he’ll turn 27 during training camp — and has many of his best years ahead of him, which is a definite advantage as Brady’s career begins its slow arc toward retirement. His speed is a definite asset and his red-zone success is severely underrated, which would offer an alternative to Rob Gronkowski down near the goal line.

Sure, $12 million is a lot to pay for something of a one-trick pony. The Patriots have had plenty of offensive success without anyone carving out a niche over the top, but that could also be the difference between getting to a Super Bowl and basking in the confetti for the first time in nine years. And wouldn’t that be worth every penny?

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

Other free agent possibilities: Gosder Cherilus - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - Danny Amendola Anthony Spencer - Anthony Fasano – Dwight Freeney – Brandon Moore – Dunta Robinson – Glover Quin – Greg Jennings – Rashean Mathis – Sean Smith

Photo via Facebook/Mike Wallace

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