Mike Wallace a game-changer for Dolphins

Signing receiver Mike Wallace could help Miami's playoff chances. Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins made the biggest splash on the first day of free agency.

The up-and-coming Dolphins landed former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, who has the potential to be a game-changer in Miami. ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton reports the contract is for five years and worth a maximum of $65 million.

Miami simultaneously filled its biggest need and landed arguably the best player available. It was a home run for a franchise that has not been to the playoffs since 2008. Speaking of the postseason, those expectations now will be the norm for Miami after going 7-9 last season and landing Wallace. This is the kind of move that can turn an average team into a playoff contender.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland spoke all offseason about getting better skill players around second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Ireland may not be a popular figure in Miami, but he backed up his words and delivered with Wallace.

The Dolphins now have a strong group of receivers from top to bottom with Wallace, fellow 1,000-yard receiver Brian Hartline and slot receiver Davone Bess (61 receptions in 2012). The acquisition of Wallace makes Miami's receiving corps the deepest in the AFC East, although that has the potential to change later in free agency and the draft.

That certainly wasn’t the case for the Dolphins last season, when touchdown production was an issue. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Miami's receivers were last in the NFL with just three touchdown receptions in 2012. Wallace has 32 career touchdowns, including eight last season with the Steelers. Wallace not only has speed, but he’s a playmaker with a nose for the end zone.

Getting Wallace was a tremendous start for the Dolphins, but their work is far from done. Miami must do more to close the gap with the reigning AFC East champion New England Patriots. For example, the Dolphins still have needs at cornerback, tight end, safety and offensive tackle.

But the signing of Wallace lays the foundation for Miami to have a successful offseason. The Dolphins made a significant step on Tuesday toward becoming a legit playoff contender.