Read today's eNewspaper

Ex-Steeler Mike Wallace on joining Ravens: 'I used to hate purple. Now I love purple'

The Ravens have added the veteran big-play wide receiver they needed: former Steeler Mike Wallace.

Wearing a purple polo shirt, seated in front of a screen of Ravens logos and alongside a head coach whose team he used to badly want to beat, wide receiver Mike Wallace acknowledged the awkwardness of it all.

He was ready to embrace it, too.

“I just have to switch my whole mentality,” Wallace said Tuesday during an afternoon news conference at the Under Armour Performance Center. “I used to hate purple. Now I love purple.”

It was only about 2 ½ years ago when Wallace, then a newly minted Miami Dolphin after spending four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, declared that the Ravens were his least favorite team. But on Tuesday, not long after signing a two-year deal with the Ravens worth a reported $11.5 million, Wallace was all smiles.

“It’s a really stable, really well-rounded organization,” Wallace said. “I kind of knew that, though, before just from the outside and friends that I already had here. … It felt right from the moment I walked in. Just happy to be here.”

That Wallace and the Ravens gravitated toward each other makes sense. The Ravens badly need to add speed and playmaking ability on the outside, something the team lacked last year with rookie first-round pick Breshad Perriman missing the entire season with a knee injury. Wallace, 29, was looking for an offense that better suits his skill set and a quarterback who loves throwing the deep ball.

“This is a really good football player,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “This is a guy that changes the face of our offense dramatically. He adds an element that is just very important in the National Football League. He’s a complete receiver.”

The Wallace signing caps a productive couple of days for the Ravens, who on Monday agreed to a four-year deal with long-time San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle, who will officially sign his contract Wednesday. Stabilizing the secondary and adding more playmakers for quarterback Joe Flacco were among general manager Ozzie Newsome’s biggest priorities.

With two moves in about a 24-hour span, the Ravens accomplished both. Now, they’ll be looking to solidify the roster at left tackle, outside linebacker, inside linebacker and cornerback.

“The basic structure of improving our football team has come together in one of the ways that we visualized,” Harbaugh said. “There were different options, and I don’t know that we’re done yet, so we’ll just kind of see how it plays out. This one really happened fast.”

So fast that Wallace had to pull on a polo shirt rather than his putting on his preferred three-piece suit. He said that he had other teams interested and other potential visits lined up, but felt that the Ravens provided his best opportunity.

He was flattered by how hard the Ravens recruited him as Harbaugh, Newsome and wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. were among the members of the organization who called him after he was released by the Minnesota Vikings last week. Harbaugh even chased Wallace down in the team parking lot Tuesday to have the wide receiver come back in the building to meet the media and finalize the deal.

Wallace also said that the opportunity to play with Flacco was a huge draw, especially after the deep passing game wasn’t featured prominently in his previous two stops with the Vikings and the Dolphins. He joked that when he was with the Steelers, he watched Flacco target Torrey Smith on so many deep balls that it prompted him to campaign to his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, to target him more.

“When this process started, I knew I wasn’t going back to Minnesota,” Wallace said. “I was like, ‘I need a good quarterback. I need a quarterback who I know is proven, who can get things done,’ and Flacco, he’s always been that guy. I always loved his deep ball, always, ever since, like I said, I was in Pittsburgh watching Torrey catching them. I was like, ‘Man, this guy gets like eight of them in a row.’ I need some of that. …

“This is going to be fun. It’s going to be a great opportunity just to revive and get back to where I want to be at and the type of player I know I can be. I feel like I can maximize my potential here.”

Wallace caught 235 balls for 4,042 yards and 32 touchdowns in 63 regular-season games with the Steelers from 2009-12, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2011. Averaging 17.2 yards per reception, he was established as one of the NFL’s top deep threats.

He signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Dolphins in March 2013, and he caught 140 balls for 1,792 yards and 15 touchdowns over two seasons with them. He didn’t play poorly for Miami by any stretch. He just struggled to live up to his mega-deal and the Dolphins traded him to the Vikings last March.

But Wallace never fully clicked with Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and seemed miscast in Minnesota’s run-oriented offense.

“I’ll show everybody,” Wallace said. “I’ve been taking a lot of heat for about three years in a row. So, we’ll see about that. I promise, I’ll get the last laugh. Hopefully, we can get where we want to go, and that’s to the championship.

“I wanted to get back to what I do, and that’s stretching the field and making some plays. I just wanted to be with a good quarterback, and [we have] a Super Bowl-winning quarterback right here. So, you can’t beat that. I feel like we go hand-in-hand. The things he does well, I think I do well.”

Wallace joins a suddenly crowded wide receiver group that includes Smith Sr., Perriman, Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro (River Hill). The Ravens also liked what they saw at times last season with Jeremy Butler, Daniel Brown and Chris Matthews.

“It’s going to cause people some problems,” Harbaugh said. “You have some considerations back there on defense. If you’re going to put your defense over one guy or another guy and leave some pretty talented guys open on the other side, that’s going to create some problems for defenses.”

Notes: Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs was formally charged with two misdemeanors stemming from his one-car accident in Scottsdale, Ariz., on March 5. Suggs was charged with driving with a suspended license and failure to notify after striking a fixture, said Sgt. Benjamin Hoster of the Scottsdale Police Department. Such offenses can lead to jail time but are usually handled with fines. Suggs is due in court next month. … Former Ravens wide receiver Chris Givens took a free-agent visit to the New York Jets Tuesday.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

Copyright © 2016, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
39°