It’s hard to call wide receiver Mike Wallace’s 2015 campaign anything but a disappointment, and the production simply wasn’t worth the money the Minnesota Vikings were set to pay him in 2016.
As a result, the Vikings announced that they released Wallace on Monday.
Tom Pelissero of USA Today reported that Wallace would have had to take a pay cut to stay with the Vikings.
This comes as no surprise, considering Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote during the offseason that Wallace “is not expected to be back, and certainly not at his $11.5 million salary.” That salary is no longer an issue for the Vikings, and Wallace will have to turn his attention to the open market in the hopes of replicating his past success elsewhere.
Minnesota acquired Wallace in a trade with the Miami Dolphins before the 2015 campaign with the idea of making him a go-to option and deep threat for young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He failed to live up to those expectations and turned in his worst statistical season of his career with the Vikings.
Wallace’s 473 receiving yards, two touchdown catches, 12.1 yards per catch and 27 receiving first downs were all career-low marks. What’s more, he tallied 39 catches, which was his lowest total since his rookie campaign in 2009, when he also caught 39 passes for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pro Football Focus provided more perspective on Wallace's production:
Pro Football Focus @PFF
Mike Wallace (released by Vikings today) finished 2015 as PFF's 96th-ranked wide receiver. https://t.co/0yyCbAakbh https://t.co/WhNrUyP6h22016-3-8 21:02:37
While there is something to be said for the Vikings’ run-first offense limiting his opportunities (72 targets was his lowest mark since he was a rookie), it was still a sharp dip from his prior production:
|Mike Wallace's Career Production|
While Wallace will be 30 years old throughout the 2016 campaign and is likely somewhat past his prime, he is still young enough to be a primary contributor and only a season removed from a 10-touchdown campaign. He still boasts the speed to be a consistent deep threat and is a proven playmaker at the NFL level.
Yes, he disappointed in 2015, but it was also a one-year sample size in which he was breaking into a new offense that featured the running back more than any other player and a quarterback who was still only in his second season in the league.
What’s more, the Minnesota offensive line that Football Outsiders ranked 29th in the league in pass protection struggled to block for long enough for deep pass plays to develop. That cut into Wallace’s opportunities for game-changing plays down the field, which is how he often made his impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins.
Perhaps if Wallace signs somewhere with a better offensive line and an offense that features the aerial attack more than the ground game, he will once again be the dynamic weapon he was in the not-too-distant past.
His expected price tag will also likely drop due to his struggles to produce at a consistent level in 2015, which means Wallace could be an offense-shifting bargain for a squad looking to make a splash in free agency.