Minnesota hopes Wallace can be the deep-threat receiver
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Vikings hope that after 10 years and 11 days, they really did find a replacement for Randy Moss. On March 2, 2005, Minnesota traded the controversial wide receiver to Oakland after he caught passes for more than 1,000 y...
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The Vikings hope that after 10 years and 11 days, they really did find a replacement for Randy Moss.
On March 2, 2005, Minnesota traded the controversial wide receiver to Oakland after he caught passes for more than 1,000 yards in six of his seven seasons with the team. How many 1,000-yard receiving seasons have the Vikings had since?
One: Sidney Rice, who had 1,312 yards in 2009. But little was heard from Rice again, and Minnesota continued its search for an explosive receiver.
On March 13, the Vikings think they might have found him in speedster Mike Wallace, acquired from Miami.
“Mike Wallace is definitely one of the top deep threats in the NFL, speaking in today’s terms,” said hall of fame wide receiver Paul Warfield. “He has extraordinary capabilities to make big plays. I think he can fill that void that the Vikings feel they’ve had since the departure of Randy Moss.”
Warfield knows plenty about being a game-breaking receiver. Playing for Cleveland and Miami from 1964-77, he averaged 20.1 yards per catch, the fifth-highest total in NFL history. He is one of just six receivers with a career average of 20 yards or better.
Wallace, 28, has put up some impressive numbers in his six-year career. He had 1,000 or more receiving yards in two of his first three seasons with Pittsburgh, highlighted by his 60 catches, 1,257 yards and 21.0 average in 2010.
But Wallace has been inconsistent. After signing a five-year, $60 million deal with the Dolphins as a free agent in 2013, he averaged a modest 12.8 yards per reception in two seasons, making 140 catches for 1,792 yards. That’s why the Dolphins dumped his salary, trading him and a seventh-round draft pick to the Vikings for a fifth-round selection.
“I think that he went from being a complementary player to a player the Dolphins were hoping could elevate their entire passing game,” hall of fame wide receiver James Lofton said. “He just wasn’t at that level yet. You go back and look at the receivers he had along with him in Pittsburgh in Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Hines Ward.”
In other words, deep-threat receivers can’t always do it themselves. Lofton should know.
Lofton was one of the NFL’s most explosive receivers, with six 1,000-yard receiving seasons and five seasons averaging 20 or more yards per catch in a career that spanned from 1978-93. Lofton, whose best years were with Green Bay and Buffalo, had John Jefferson on the Packers and fellow hall of famer Andre Reed on the Bills.
Minnesota’s other receivers - Charles Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jarius Wright - probably can’t match what Wallace had with the Steelers. Still, Lofton said Wallace could return to his previous form.
“You can roll the dice on a player like Mike Wallace,” said Lofton, now an NFL radio analyst for Westwood One. “If it works this year, you move on to the next year. If it doesn’t, you go on to the next guy. You want somebody who can strike fear into the defense but also follow through on that. I think sometimes guys need a second chance, and you can move on to a new team and have a clean slate.”
Although there were questions about Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s ability to utilize Wallace’s speed, Lofton believes Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be able to get the ball downfield to his new receiver. Bridgewater was erratic in that area as a rookie, but he didn’t have the best deep threats at his disposal.
Now, the Vikings believe Bridgewater has one. That’s why they’re willing to pay Wallace $9.9 million for 2015 despite his controversial finish to the 2014 season.
Wallace allegedly declined to play in the second half of Miami’s season finale in December, a charge he has denied. Still, Dolphins center Mike Pouncey and his twin Maurkice, once Wallace’s Steelers teammate, both ripped Wallace in an interview last week with a Miami television station.
“Things didn’t play out quite as well in Miami as they did in Pittsburgh for him, but now here’s another opportunity,” Warfield said. “I think at this stage of his career he still has a lot of productive years ahead of him, and he would be an asset to the Vikings. There’s an old adage that says, ‘Speed kills,’ but you have to have a fellow who can make it work for you. I think he’s going to come into Minnesota with a lot determination to try to play well.”
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service.