From a simple metal smokestack atop the Vatican on Tuesday, a papal conclave of 115 cardinals in Rome will reveal their globally anticipated vote — white smoke indicating a new pope has been chosen, black smoke indicating no decision.
(I would find it funny if the billow arose a sort of ashen gray that left the crowd in St. Peter’s Square murmuring and the world thoroughly confused — but that’s just me.)
Imagine if the Dolphins on Tuesday revealed their own monumental result in similar quaint-yet-dramatic fashion on the first official day of NFL free agency.
Picture a teeming multitude of Dolfans and gathered media staring up at a small smokestack atop the giant indoor Practice Bubble at the club’s Davie headquarters ... all hoping for something divine … all waiting for a sign.
Suddenly, the afternoon growing late, tendrils of white smoke begin to rise as anxious silence erupts into a sustained, roaring cheer of worshippers.
“It is done!” a believer’s cry is heard above the din. “We got Mike Wallace!”
My analogy intends no blasphemy. I am not comparing these two things in importance, even as I suggest that most Dolfans would be as excited about a new impact receiver as most Roman Catholics will be about a new pontiff.
And why not! Wallace is much faster and more of a deep threat, although the 40-yard-dash time of the new pope may only be estimated, with concession given for the hindering drag of flowing robes and that spectacularly non-aerodynamic papal hat.
Fans will see landing Wallace — or the failure to do so — as the free agency test of almost Biblical gravity defining Jeff Ireland, the general manager with much to prove.
The soundtrack for the pricey pursuit would be The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again. Ireland knew the Dolphins needed a premier wideout one year ago and privately coveted Vincent Jackson, but then misfired twice. He underestimated the market and what Jackson would cost, and how hamstrung Miami’s offense would be without help.
He won’t get fooled again. (Or at least try not to.)
Ireland and check-signing owner Stephen Ross stand ready to offer Wallace, from the Steelers, a contract that might fairly be guessed at $60 million through five years when the signing period opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday. That bar was set last week when Kansas City re-signed its own pending free agent receiver, Dwayne Bowe, for $56 million through five years. Wallace is better and more coveted.
The imperative to land Wallace is so great the team might have to overspend, because other teams are pursuing. One is thought to be Minnesota, perhaps more so now after trading disgruntled receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle on Monday. Champion Baltimore might also chase Wallace now that it traded Anquan Boldin on Monday.
The past year taught Ireland not only about the marketplace but also that second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill cannot become all he’s going to be without a target who can get open deep, a target opposing defensive coordinators and cornerbacks will fear.
That’s Wallace, who is game-changing fast, has a proven knack for reaching end zones and is only 26.
Miami re-signing its own free agent, Brian Hartline, was important. He is productive, reliable. So is slot receiver Davone Bess. But they are more suited to the No. 2 and 3 roles they will play if Wallace signs. Both will be better with him commanding the defense’s attention. So will Miami’s running game.