At this time last year, wide receiver Mike Wallace was coming off the worst season in his seven-year career with the Minnesota Vikings. Wallace posted 39 receptions, 473 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. During the 2015 season, Wallace's snaps were reduced in favor of then rookie sensation and former Maryland Terrapin Stefon Diggs. Things were looking bleak for Wallace and the writing was on the wall for his time in Minnesota. After trying to work out a pay cut from his $11.5 million salary that he was due, the Vikings released the disgruntled receiver on March 7th, 2016.
Wallace was called "washed up" and a "one-trick pony" after his release. You also heard how he hasn't been good since leaving Pittsburgh. Yet, he actually did produce during his two year stint with the Miami Dolphins before being traded to Minnesota.
- 73 receptions.
- 930 receiving yards.
- 5 touchdowns.
- 67 receptions.
- 862 receiving yards
- 10 touchdowns.
The numbers that Wallace put up in Baltimore this season are similar to the ones he put up in Miami and even Pittsburgh. Yet, the talk of Wallace is different now after spending this season with the Ravens compared to the previous three. The reason Wallace was traded to the Vikings was because of him butting heads with then Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, not because of a lack of production.
After Wallace was released, he signed with the Ravens on a 2-year, $11.5 million deal. The biggest reason Wallace wanted to come to Baltimore was because of quarterback Joe Flacco. Unfortunately, during his introductory press conference via BaltimoreRavens.com, he didn't necessarily word it the way he should've.
"When this process started, I knew I wasn't going back to Minnesota. I was like, 'I need a good quarterback.' I need a quarterback who is proven and can get things done. Flacco has always been that guy."
While he is right about Flacco, leaving your former team and taking a cheap shot on your former quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, on your way out the door is not the way to handle things. It just made him look petty and bitter. Nevertheless, the Ravens took a gamble on Wallace. Hoping that the playmaker was still there. The contract was even written as such just in case Wallace was truly done because he has an $8 million club option this offseason.
The gamble paid off as Wallace formed a great connection and chemistry with Flacco. Wallace finished the year with 72 receptions, 4 touchdowns and posted his first 1,000 yard season since 2011. In an offense that lacked playmakers and the coaches complete refusal to run the football, Wallace was a big bright spot. Not only that, but Wallace really became a more complete receiver with Flacco and did his best to destroy the "one trick pony" narrative that was placed on him. Wallace wanted to prove that he wasn't as washed up as everyone said he was and he proved them wrong with a bang in 2016. Now, we get to the business side of things.
Like I mentioned before, Wallace has an $8 million club option and could very well become a cap casualty. Baltimore has until the end of the 2016 league year on March 8th to exercise the club option. General manager Ozzie Newsome will have a big decision to make with Wallace because unlike Kendrick Lewis, Kyle Arrington, Elvis Dumervil and Jeremy Zuttah, Wallace is not an easy cut and may be simply too valuable to let go.
The Ravens could release Wallace and try to re-sign him to a more cap-friendly deal, but it may be too much of a risk due to the season Wallace put up. Some team might come and offer him a much bigger contract and Wallace will be out the door faster than his long touchdown receptions. Not only that, if the Ravens cut Wallace, that would be three receivers from 2016 gone with Steve Smith Sr. lost to retirement and the likelihood of Kamar Aiken leaving in free agency. That does Joe Flacco no favors.
The Ravens must find some way to retain their speedy playmaker. Cutting him would be too much of a risk and with the already limitations of this offense, combine with the recent news of linebacker Zachary Orr's retirement, the morale of the team could be even lower. Baltimore will have to make decisions with some veteran players like the ones I listed before and even guys like Dennis Pitta, Ben Watson and Lardarius Webb.
This team could look very different next season, but Mike Wallace should be in their plans for 2017 and hopefully, beyond. Wallace is a playmaker and seems to love it in Baltimore with a good organization and a strong armed quarterback. Additionally, keeping Wallace is sure to make Flacco happy as they try build off their chemistry from this season. For the first time since his Pittsburgh days, Wallace might've found a nice home. The Ravens have to make sure Baltimore remains his home.