The Ravens picked up Mike Wallace’s $5.75 million option for 2017, bringing the speedy wide receiver back for a second season with the team.
Wallace, 30, led the Ravens last season with 1,017 receiving yards, and was second with 72 catches and four touchdown receptions. With five receptions for 50 yards or more, Wallace proved to be the big-play threat the Ravens hoped he’d be when they signed him last March.
There were some questions about whether the Ravens would move on from Wallace because his $8 million salary cap hit was the fifth highest on the team, and Wallace was also due a $1 million bonus if he was still on the roster by March 13.
Declining Wallace’s option would have created $5.75 million in salary cap space. However, they had no proven depth behind Wallace. Picking up his option seemed inevitable when former Raven Torrey Smith signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier in the day. The Ravens had explored a reunion with Smith.
With Steve Smith Sr. having retired and Kamar Aiken heading into free agency, the Ravens’ depth chart behind Wallace includes Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro (River Hill), Chris Moore, Chris Matthews, Vince Mayle and Kenny Bell. Wallace is the only player on that list that has started more than one game.
The Ravens figure to add a possession receiver either in free agency or the draft.
Yardage-wise, Wallace is coming off his best season since 2011, when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That year, he had 72 catches for 1,193 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, and made his only Pro Bowl team.
Wallace played his first four NFL seasons with the Steelers, and developed into one of the NFL’s best deep threats. He signed with the Miami Dolphins before the 2013 season and had two relatively solid years, though he struggled to live up to the expectations that come with signing a five-year, $60 million contract.
Miami traded Wallace to the Minnesota Vikings before the 2015 season, but he was ill-suited for the Vikings’ run-oriented offense. He either tied or set career lows in catches, yards and touchdowns in his one season in Minnesota and then he was released following the year. He signed a two-year, $11.5 million deal with the Ravens a week after his Vikings’ release.
Wallace admitted it was weird at first to land with the Ravens after engaging in a bitter rivalry against them as a member of the Steelers. However, he fit in well, announcing his presence with a 66-yard touchdown reception against the Buffalo Bills in the Ravens’ season-opening victory.
Wallace added two more touchdown receptions the following week against the Cleveland Browns and then burned his old team with a 95-yard touchdown reception, the longest regular-season play from scrimmage in team history, in the Ravens’ Nov. 6 victory over the Steelers. That touchdown was his only one over the final 13 games of the season.