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Chase for Wallace begins in Indianapolis

The Indianapolis Combine begins today. General Manager Jeff Ireland will speak to the media Thursday per the schedule. And so let me tell you what's about to happen:

As I reported Feb. 12 the Dolphins will get about the business of talking to Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings. As Indianapolis is the site where team personnel and agents gather, I expect the Dolphins will touch base with the representatives for both players in the coming days.

That doesn't mean the Dolphins will sign both players. It doesn't mean they'll sign either because, well, stuff happens. As I said, they'll work it with both. But it means they have a plan and both players are part of that plan. The plan has Wallace as the priority but also includes Jennings -- perhaps as a fallback position, perhaps in addition to Wallace.

It is not possible to know exactly what Ireland has in mind with Wallace and Jennings because he doesn't share that with anyone in the media. But it is certain the Dolphins will chase Wallace first. He is the priority. Then Jennings will come soon afterward.

And that brings us to this:

The story is not whether the Dolphins want or are interested in or will speak with top target Mike Wallace or his agent.

The story is whether the Dolphins can actually land Mike Wallace.

Wallace, you see, is the second biggest free agent name this Dolphins administration has chased. The biggest was last year and his name is Peyton Manning. But as the Dolphins haven't exactly been nails landing the guys they want, it is fair to wonder if they can be successful this time.

(A note here: If you're thinking back to last year and say the Dolphins chased and failed to land quarterbacks Matt Flynn or Alex Smith, I reject that idea. The team placed no "must-have" priority on either of those players. The contract offered to Flynn was only borderline starter money, more than suggesting Miami could take or leave Flynn. So Flynn took the more sure thing in Seattle. As for Smith, I'm not even sure the Dolphins offered him a contract and if they did, it definitely was not for the $8 million per year he was seeking. So again, the team wasn't all in on getting Smith. I don't see that as failures of any sort. Indeed, hindsight has shown Ireland was wise to steer clear of both.)

Now, the Dolphins did fail on Manning. They not only didn't land the biggest free agent they'e ever chased, they even failed to be among his finalists. Yes, the club managed a meeting with Manning but if you remember they had to fly to see him. Manning, meanwhile, went to Denver and other places he was truly interested in to speak with those teams. The Dolphins were in the hunt, but they were the hound way back in the pack gasping for breath and watching the lead dogs tree the game and get the big pat on the head.

(Where the heck did I come up with that analogy?)

Miami has also failed in other free agent attempts, to be sure, but one that should worry is the failed effort to land Ryan Clark. You remember Clark? He came to South Florida via Pittsburgh, apparently ready to sign a deal that would take him away from the Steelers.

He never signed. He returned to Pittsburgh.

Clark's story is that the Dolphins offended him. They told him how he was flawed and not worth a ton of money and made him feel unwanted, etc ...

The Dolphins have a different version but that version does not matter now.

The Clark version matters because he is Mike Wallace's teammate in Pittsburgh and if the wide receiver asks, that's the version he's going to hear. Facts be damned, Wallace will likely hear the Dolphins painted in a negative light. And so Miami could be swimming against that tide to convince Wallace this is the team for him.

There's also this little matter of competition. I seriously doubt the Dolphins will be the only team chasing Mike Wallace. Although his asking price will likely start around $11-$12 million, as I first reported on January 25, Wallace is likely to have other suitors.

His agent's job the next week will be to drum up interest in his client so that Wallace can have teams bid against each other. I have no idea what teams will target Wallace aside from the Dolphins. The Dolphins are projected to have the third-most salary cap space in the NFL when the league year opens March 12.

So they can afford Wallace.

But there have been rumors Cleveland and even Cincinnati might also have interest. And they happen to be the two teams with more cap space than Miami.

It must be said the Dolphins have not been inept at landing their man. In 2010, Karlos Dansby was considered the prize defensive player in free agency and the Dolphins got him straight away.

They got Jason Taylor away from the New York Jets in 2011.

(Yes, they lost Calvin Pace to the Jets in 2008 but thank God!)

So there have been hits and misses once the Dolphins have identified their targets. They identifed Wallace weeks ago.

The chase begins now.

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