The Baltimore Ravens bolstered their receiving group earlier this offseason with the addition of veteran speedster Mike Wallace, who was extremely productive in the past with the division rival Steelers before experiencing a dip in production after leaving Pittsburgh. Fresh off the worst season of his career with the Minnesota Vikings, Wallace was looking for a fresh start with a quarterback who possesses the arm strength to utilize his deep speed. The Ravens pursued Wallace heavily, adding another option to their deep stable of solid but unspectacular wide receivers, with veteran Steve Smith Sr. returning from injury, 1st round pick Breshad Perriman looking to step up after a redshirt rookie season, and journeyman Kamar Aiken coming off a career year.
With the signing of Wallace just one year following the departure of former speedster Torrey Smith, the question is: Does this signing show remorse on the part of the Ravens for letting Torrey go?
The answer is a resounding NO!
While Wallace may mimic some of the same traits which made Torrey successful in Baltimore, the Ravens operate under the 'right player, right price' philosophy and the 80/20 rule. Like the departures of popular players like Anquan Boldin, Jarrett Johnson, and Haloti Ngata, the departure of Smith was a necessary evil in a league with a salary cap. There are only so many dollars to go around. And while in some cases the replacement may have already been on the roster (Ngata) or drafted immediately (JJ), in other cases it may take a year for the team to replace them (Boldin, Torrey). That does not make it the wrong move to let them go. Many still feel that letting Boldin leave was a big mistake, but I am not one of them. Boldin was a declining player playing below his salary level. Just one year later, we signed Steve Smith to a contract half the size, and he immediately had an 1000 yard season, something Boldin was never able to achieve in Baltimore.
Torrey and Wallace is a similar story. While Wallace is 2 1/2 years older, he also has been more productive in his career, although they both have the same knock on them: inconsistent hands and limited route tree. Despite the down year for Wallace, he remains a good player still in his prime, and if he is successful this year in Baltimore there is a decent chance he could end his career there, like another popular veteran signee Derrick Mason.
The biggest factor in Torrey Smith's departure was money, with him signing a 5 year, $40 million deal to go to the San Francisco 49ers, with $22 million guaranteed. Contrast that with the Ravens deal for Wallace: essentially a 1 year, $5.75 million deal with an option for a second year at the same price. Torrey basically signed for double that, despite not definitively being a better player. The Ravens also netted a 4th round compensatory pick for him in the 2016 draft, although we do not know who they will take with the pick. In addition, the Ravens structured Wallace's contract in a way that even if they do not pick up the second year of the deal, they will still be eligible for a compensatory pick.The Ravens did use a 1st round pick on Breshad Perriman to essentially fill Torrey's role, but his rookie year took an unexpected turn and the Ravens have no idea what they have, although Perriman does have the look of a top receiver who can go up and make acrobatic catches, if he can put it all together.
So while the signing of Wallace does show the desire of the front office to add insurance for Perriaman, it does not show they regret letting Torrey Smith go. In fact, I think most Ravens fans would agree that if the Ravens had spent the money, it would have been to resign pass rusher Pernell McPhee, not retain Torrey. Just another example of 'right player, right price.' The Ravens are paying a grand total of $12.198149 million for their foursome of Aiken, Smith, Wallace and Perriman, while Torrey has a $7.6 million cap hit for 2016, before it rises to $9.6 for each of the last 3 years of the deal. We can say with certainty, the Ravens don't regret this one.