Miami Dolphins

March 14, 2013

Miami Dolphins welcome Mike Wallace, bring in TE Dustin Keller for visit

Mike Wallace said he’s ‘excited’ to join the Dolphins, who are still shopping for free agents. Meanwhile, Reggie Bush signed with the Lions.

Ring, ring. Who’s there?

Just the Dolphins’ stud new receiver — already hard at work justifying his $60 million contract.

Time will tell if Mike Wallace is the savior of Miami’s sluggish offense, but he’s already a godsend to the team’s marketing department. In his first full day as a Miami Dolphin, Wallace was everywhere — appearing on NFL Network, taping a phone message for season-ticket holders and giving away a signed hat on social media.

For a team that has run an enthusiasm deficit, he’s adrenaline in a bottle.

“It took forever just for this last week to pass, but I’m very excited to be here,” Wallace told reporters during his introductory news conference Wednesday. “I’m very excited to start this next chapter in my life down in South Florida.”

That chapter could include a whole new cast of Dolphins characters.

Tight end Dustin Keller was also in town Wednesday, on a free agent visit. After a physical in the afternoon, he met with coaches before a dinner on the town.

Keller, who spent his first five seasons with the Jets, had 28 catches for 317 yards and two touchdowns in an injury-shortened 2012.

He would fill a glaring need for the Dolphins after tight end Anthony Fasano left for Kansas City and Jared Cook, their top free agent target at the position, signed with the Rams.

But the Dolphins are not stopping there. They also plan to meet with former Rams receiver Brandon Gibson, who visited the Jets on Wednesday. Gibson has been in communication with the Dolphins’ front office since the open negotiation period began Saturday, and would likely compete to be their slot receiver if he signs here.

The former sixth-round pick out of Washington State is considered one of the top options left on the market. He set career highs in receiving yards (691) and touchdowns (five) on 51 catches last year.

The team also has interest in re-signing Jake Long and Sean Smith, but at the right price.

The oft-injured Long took a lengthy physical for the Rams Tuesday, the first stop on his free agency tour. Should he sign there, the Dolphins would actively search for a replacement at tackle. Nate Garner remains an option to return, although multiple teams have interest.

The most direct news about Long on Wednesday came from his wife, Jackie. She was a fixture on Twitter, at one point knocking down a rumor that he a deal in place with the Rams. She also toured St. Louis, but made it clear that her heart remains in South Florida.

“Was pleasantly surprised,” she tweeted. “Not selling our house in MIA though!”

It’s unclear exactly how much the team still has left to spend in free agency, particularly after designating Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett June 1 cuts, but it is believed to be enough to remain a factor. That’s true even after locking down Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler on Tuesday.

The Dolphins formally announced the Ellerbe and Wheeler additions early Wednesday afternoon. By then, Wallace had already been signed, sealed — and delivered to the media.

“It wasn’t too agonizing,” Wallace said of his decision. “A lot of things come across your mind. I knew it was going to be here a couple of years. Hopefully I’m here for the rest of my career.”

The speedster — who formally goes by Burnell Mike Wallace III — has already met his new quarterback. Ryan Tannehill took him out to dinner Tuesday night after the deal was completed. Both wore No. 17 last year; it’s unclear who will get in the number going forward.

“They’re getting a No. 1 player,” Wallace’s father, Mike Jr. told The Miami Herald. “He’s a real talent, and he likes what he does. He’s more excited to be a Dolphin than he was a Steeler.”

Considering the speed at which a deal was consummated — news leaked just minutes after the 4 p.m. official start of free agency Tuesday — there are some who believe that Wallace agreeing to terms was a weeklong formality.

Not so, said his agent Bus Cook. He told The Miami Herald that several teams made an aggressive push to sign Wallace in the final 48 hours. In the end though, Wallace was always Miami’s to lose.

“I think this is a place he really wanted to be,” Cook said. “He made it pretty clear to me, [saying] ‘That’s what I want to do. Bus, you deal with them on the contract, and I’ll let you handle that. I want to play where it’s warm.’”

As for Reggie Bush — a one-time splashy veteran addition — winter surroundings will be frigid for the foreseeable future. Bush signed a four-year contract with the Lions on Wednesday after getting little interest from the Dolphins.

Elsewhere, discussions remain ongoing between the Dolphins and Smith, who is in negotiations with at least three teams.

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