Former Pittsburgh Steeler and current Miami Dolphins' wide receiver Mike Wallace is one of the highest paid receivers in football right now, despite a pretty mediocre set of stats while down south. In fact, Mike Wallace's contract is so bad that Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti used it in reference to resigning Torrey Smith.
Mike Wallace got 10 million. I don’t think anybody thinks that that was a good deal
So then, how could Mike Wallace being traded to Baltimore be a good thing or even happen?
First and foremost, the Dolphins are reportedly starting to explore the trade market for Wallace. As with any major contract, the teams with the most money to spend are at the forefront of that discussion, notably the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders. The fact that this is even open for discussion allows us to talk about the possibilities.
With Cleveland actually starting to make up ground in the AFC North due to smart offseason moves, this team doesn't reek of the desperation they once did that would have eaten up the contract Wallace is earning and they have more than enough problems with guys like Josh Gordon and Johnny Manziel in the locker room. Oakland is always a destination for fast guys, but if Wallace has any say on his new location, it isn't likely that Oakland is on his wish list. Not to mention that Oakland has a new head coach, Jack Del Rio, a former Ravens coach that is known to not play around and would likely want to establish a better roster without dropping tons of money on a single player. Both teams will be drafting fairly high this season and both are expected to go after help at the receiver position in the first round due to having young quarterbacks, young coaches, and wanting to rebuild their way.
If Wallace does have a say in his final location, Baltimore would be attractive for more than a few reasons. The Ravens are the rival to Pittsburgh, Wallace's first team. While Wallace likely isn't bitter about his departure from Pittsburgh, I'm sure he would like to show up his former team mates, with Baltimore being the best opportunity to do that. Next up is the fact that the Ravens have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Joe Flacco, with an arm to match Wallace's deep speed, and a desire to go deep fairly often. Add in that Baltimore is recently removed from winning a SuperBowl and were incredibly close to winning another despite having an injured secondary all year long, and Wallace could see Baltimore as his best spot to win it all.
Wallace was a bit of a locker room problem for Miami, reportedly missing the second half of the season finale because he didn't feel like continuing to play in that game. While few athletes can recover from that type of PR, Baltimore is a relative safe haven for guys that were too feisty with their previous teams and Wallace's move feels full of vigor on being outclassed due to the personnel and coaching issues the Dolphins have had over the years. Being with a Championship caliber team should immediately give Wallace all the incentive he needs to play like never before and having a veteran locker room and tough coach should immediately put Wallace in his place as a team player.
The Dolphins have gotten flack over the amount of money Wallace was given over the life of his contract. Spotrac has Wallace's contract at 5 years and $60 million, with 2015 counting as a little over $12 million in cap hit. Now of course, the Ravens couldn't eat that much of a cap hit and with his reported problems, few teams would be willing to come anywhere close to that payment for a guy with average stats and an authority issue. But if you are the Ravens, you can likely work a contract negotiation into the deal and lower Wallace's numbers greatly over the next few years while giving yourself plenty of room and reason to cut him if things don't work out. The fact that 2016 sees his dead cap number as only $4.4 million, while he is set to earn $13.7 million, leaves the room to extend his deal slightly, lower his cap number over the next two or three years and then make him expendable.
Is he an upgrade?
Now of course, this is all well and good that the deal could work our financially, but why would the Ravens even think about it? For that answer, you have to look no further than Wallace's stats while with Pittsburgh. Over 4 years with the Steelers, Wallace had 4042 yards with an average catch rate of 17.5 yards and 32 touchdowns. Ben Roethlisberger has a big arm, but Baltimore is set up with an even bigger armed quarterback in Joe Flacco and have shown over the years a big desire to press guys down the field for big plays. The potential is there for Wallace to hit career numbers if he plays up to his talent level.
With Torrey Smith up for his contract, the Ravens are going to likely see anywhere between $6-9 million per year with a pretty good guarantee and signing bonus if they wish to keep Smith in town. With Smith's four years as a Raven seeing only 3591 yards for an average catch rate of 16.9 yards and 30 touchdowns, Wallace would absolutely be an upgrade at the position in terms of production. In terms of talent, Wallace came out of the draft as a better prospect due to slightly better speed, more consistent hands and has been able to steadily improve his route running over the years. Torrey Smith is a bit of a one trick pony at this point and hasn't been able to shake concern over his hands and his route running, which is why Baltimore isn't expected to put down the cash to keep him.
With the ability for Baltimore to work Wallace's deal into a more cap friendly contract due to Miami eating most of his expense, Wallace would be an immediate boost to the Ravens offense. While no one knows what the Dolphins are looking for in compensation, it has to be expected that Miami will cut him eventually due to his cap number and just not working out for them. That ultimately lowers the price down considerably and I could see Miami asking and Baltimore giving out a fourth rounder for the right to lock Wallace in black and purple.
At the end of the day, if Baltimore can extend Wallace an extra two years on his contract and rework the next three years down to $5-$7 million per year, it essentially turns the contract into a three year deal for Baltimore. At that point, Wallace has little to no dead cap space on his deal for the final two years and is immediately cut, allowing Baltimore to pay equal or less than what they would have been locked into with Torrey Smith per year. An upgrade for less money is how the Ravens like to do things and is similar to what Ozzie Newsome had done with Anquan Boldin from Arizona at the time.
This is still incredibly far fetched, but it does make sense and could be something that the Ravens inquire about.