The partnership between Mike Wallace and the Ravens seemed a bit odd in the beginning. While he had gone on to play for both the Miami Dolphins and the Minnesota Vikings, Wallace had his best years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. At his introductory news conference in March 2016, Wallace acknowledged how much he used to dislike the Ravens after all the rivalry games he played against them.
However, Wallace needed the Ravens and the Ravens needed to find a speedy deep threat that they lost when Torrey Smith departed in free agency after the 2014 season. After a tumultuous tenure in Miami and an ineffective season in Minnesota, Wallace re-established himself with the Ravens.
After two solid seasons, he’s now moving on, having agreed to a one-year deal Thursday with the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. He’s the second Ravens unrestricted free agent to find a new home, following center Ryan Jensen’s move to Tampa Bay.
According to the NFL Network, Wallace’s new contract will be worth $2.5 million and include incentives. The 31-year-old said after the end of last season that his priority in free agency was finding a team that could win the Super Bowl. He played in a Super Bowl in his second NFL season with the Steelers in 2010.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said last week that he had spoken to Wallace’s agent about a potential return. However, Wallace’s departure is hardly a surprise. Newsome said earlier this month that he wanted to change the look of the wide receiver room, which was taken as an indication that Wallace, who led the Ravens in receiving yards in back-to-back seasons, would not return.
The Ravens have added free-agent receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown and they continue to explore adding other pass catchers. They’ve expressed interest in former Jacksonville Jaguar Allen Hurns and hosted restricted free agents Willie Snead and Cameron Meredith on visits Thursday.
With Wallace, 31, and Jeremy Maclin already gone and Michael Campanaro (River Hill) expected to leave in free agency, the only receivers currently on the Ravens’ roster from last year’s team are Chris Moore, Breshad Perriman, Quincy Adeboyejo and Tim White. White spent the entire 2017 season on injured reserve, and Adeboyejo spent most of it on the practice squad.
Wallace started 30 of 31 games over the past two seasons with the Ravens and had 124 catches for 1,765 yards and eight touchdown receptions. He wasn’t the dynamic game breaker that he was for much of his time in Pittsburgh, but Wallace proved with the Ravens that he plenty of good football left after disappointing stints with both the Dolphins and Vikings.
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The Dolphins traded him to the Vikings before the 2015 season amid accusations that he quit on his Miami teammates. Wallace had just 30 catches for 473 yards and two touchdown receptions in one year with Minnesota before he was released.
The Ravens signed him two a two-year, $11.5 million deal. In his first regular-season game with them, Wallace caught a 66-yard touchdown pass in a victory over the Buffalo Bills. Later in the 2016 season, he broke through for a 95-yard touchdown reception against his former team, the Steelers, and set a Ravens franchise record in the process.
Wallace finished 2016 with 72 catches for 1,017 yards and four touchdown catches. It was the third 1,000-yard season of his career and his first since 2011 in Pittsburgh.
His second season with the Ravens didn’t go as well, but that was probably more a symptom of the Ravens’ broken downfield passing game than anything Wallace was doing. He caught 52 balls for 748 yards and four touchdowns, missing one game with a concussion. It marked just the second time he’s missed a game in his nine-year career. Wallace did come on late, averaging just under five catches for 69 yards over his final seven games and scoring two touchdowns during that span.
Confident and outspoken, Wallace praised the Ravens several times for providing an environment that he said allowed him to be himself. He had a strong relationship with coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco, and team officials praised how he mentored some of the younger receivers, including Perriman. Wallace, who is quick with a smile and a joke, was one of the more popular Ravens in the locker room both with his teammates and reporters.
After cleaning out his locker following a disappointing end to the 2017 season, Wallace said he’d like to return to the Ravens, but after playing for four different teams over the previous six seasons, he understood the business aspect of the game. However, he got a little emotional as he credited the Ravens for helping him rediscover what he loved so much about playing football, some of which was lost on him during the trying seasons in Miami and Minnesota.
Wallace will be entering his 10th NFL season. He has 538 regular-season catches for 8,072 yards and 57 touchdown receptions in 142 games. Wallace and the Cincinnati Bengals A.J. Green are the only two active receivers to have at least 500 catches and 50 receiving touchdowns and average 14.5 yards per reception or more. Wallace’s eight receptions of 50 yards or more during the past two seasons are the most in the NFL.