The Minnesota Vikings made a bold move by trading for embattled Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace for a fifth- and seventh-round pick.
Despite the best efforts of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Minnesota Vikings' passing game struggled mightily in 2014. The 7-9 Vikings ranked 28th in passing yards, 29th in passing touchdowns and leading receiver Greg Jennings will be 32 years old in September. The Vikings will unquestionably ask Jennings to renegotiate his current contract, which has an $11 million cap hit in place for this season (Update: Jennings was released by the team on Saturday). Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is still trying to figure out how to use second-year man Cordarelle Patterson, and if this franchise is to get back to the top of a highly competitive NFC North, they're going to have to do better at the receiver position.
They took a step toward solving that problem on Friday night.
As first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, Minnesota is set to acquire receiver Mike Wallace from the Miami Dolphins for a fifth-round pick, and the Dolphins will also get a seventh-round pick in the deal. The primary reason the Vikings were able to get Wallace for so little is that his current contract adds a lot to Minnesota's cap situation for now. By trading Wallace, the Dolphins are adding $6.6 million in dead cap space to their 2015 books while freeing up $5.5 million.
“We thank Mike for his contributions to the team over the last two seasons,” Dolphins General Manager Dennis Hickey said in a statement. “We wish him the best in the Minnesota.”
Wallace is in the third year of the five-year, $60 million deal he agreed to in March, 2013, and he's struggled to live up to that deal. In 2014, he caught 67 passes on 115 targets for 862 yards and 10 touchdowns -- not awful numbers, but not what a team wants from one of the highest-paid receivers in the league. Former general manager Jeff Ireland put a fireable chip in Wallace's contract by guaranteeing the first two annual base salaries of Wallace's deal and killing the team with a $17.250 million cap hit last season. Wallace has more voidable aspects to his contract through the rest of the deal, which makes the deal palatable to the Vikings.
At his best, Wallace is one of the best pure speed receivers in the league, and he did improve in some ways over his 2013 season as quarterback Ryan Tannehill continued his development. Now, he'll be in an offense with more vertical plays, which could spark a bit more productivity.
Trading for Wallace doesn't preclude the Vikings from finding help in the draft and trying to figure out the Patterson conundrum, but it does add one more weapon to Bridgewater's arsenal. If he can live up to his two 1,000-plus-yard seasons with the Steelers in 2010 and 2011, the Vikings' offense would become an entirely different proposition for opposing defenses. That said, it's a problematic deal from a financial perspective, and Wallace has expressed limited interest in restructuring. This could just as easily be a rent-a-player deal and see Wallace leave Minnesota in 2016.
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