Minnesota Vikings' Mike Wallace knows low catch total could jeopardize contract
MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Wallace is well aware that his hefty contract could make this a one-and-done season with the Minnesota Vikings. The wide receiver is earning $9.9 million this year and due to make $11.5 million next season, but that's not guar...
MINNEAPOLIS - Mike Wallace is well aware that his hefty contract could make this a one-and-done season with the Minnesota Vikings.
The wide receiver is earning $9.9 million this year and due to make $11.5 million next season, but that’s not guaranteed. In addition, the veteran’s production has waned, and the Vikings are well-stocked with receivers on team-favorable deals.
“I’m not stupid. I’m a pretty smart guy. I understand everything,” Wallace said. “When you go to look at that, that’s a lot of money to leave out there that you want to get, but you have to make plays to get those numbers up. We’ll see.”
The speedy Wallace was acquired in March from Miami, where his numbers were down from a 2009-12 stint with Pittsburgh. With the Vikings, they’ve plummeted - to 27 receptions for 296 yards. At that pace, his 54 catches would be his fewest since his rookie year, and 592 yards would be a career-low.
His 11-yard reception average is about half of what it was when he caught 60 passes for 1,257 yards for the Steelers in 2010.
Wallace, 29, already has been upstaged by rookie Stefon Diggs, who has 28 catches for 461 yards despite being inactive for the first three of Minnesota’s eight games. Diggs, a fifth-round draft pick, has a salary-cap number this year of $401,928 and $581,928 in 2016.
Charles Johnson, who earned a starting job last season but has been overtaken by Diggs, is making $510,000 this year and $600,000 next year. And Jarius Wright, who has a cap number this season of $675,027, has signed a contract extension that will give him a raise to $2.2 million in 2016.
Cordarrelle Patterson, with a cap number of $1.97 million this year and $2.3 million in 2016, could be let go, but keeping him around because of his potential might be a more likely scenario than holding on to an under-performing Wallace.
“You get frustrated because you’re not making your plays and you want to be around these guys and be on the team,” Wallace said, “but at the same time, you understand it’s a business, as well. I’m not new here.”
In Minnesota’s past two games, both victories, Wallace has one reception for four yards. That won’t do it, Wallace knows. He needs to “make some plays, just in general be an impact player.”
Wallace, who made the Pro Bowl with the Steelers in 2011 when he had 72 receptions for 1,193 yards, said his current situation would have gotten him mad. After he signed a five-year, $60 million contract in Miami in 2013, he caught just one pass for 15 yards in his debut at Cleveland.
The Browns won the game, but Wallace pouted and declined to speak with the media.
“I’ve been like that since a kid. I get frustrated really fast, but at the same time you can’t be a kid forever,” Wallace said. “You’ve got to grow and learn from different situations, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Wallace has been targeted 10 times in the past two games.
“We haven’t been giving him enough opportunities,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “We’ve been close on a couple plays; he’s been running free three or four times where either the protection or the play didn’t take it to him. I think his production will go up when we need it to.”
Turner stressed that Wallace’s impact doesn’t always show up in the box score. Because teams have to respect his speed, Diggs has had more opportunities. Running back Adrian Peterson, too.
“I talk to (Wallace) all the time,” coach Mike Zimmer. “(His attitude is) good. I think he likes winning; he likes competing. I’m sure he wants the ball more. But like I tell him, just keep working and things will happen.”
Wallace averaged 17.2 yards a catch in four seasons with Pittsburgh. That dropped to 12.8 yards in two seasons in Miami, when he caught 140 passes for 1,792 yards. Many expected his stats to go back up with the Vikings.
“I don’t really think we call that many deep passes,” Wallace said. “We’re more of an intermediate, short (passing) type of team, running team. Deep balls, I don’t really feel like we call them as much. (Intermediate balls are) not really what I want to do, but whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do it.
“Do I really just want to be an intermediate guy? No, I’ve never been that guy. But I don’t have a problem doing it, either.”
Wallace beat his man on a deep throw Nov. 1 at Chicago, but Bridgewater overthrew him. He had no catches in that game for just the third time in his NFL career.
“You’ve got to stay positive,” Wallace said. “That’s the best way to get the frustration away is to make the plays. The only way you’re going to make those plays is to stay positive and believe that it’s going to happen.’’
The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.