Mike Wallace says he is happy to be in Minnesota, and after he arrived at Winter Park today, the Vikings tweeted out a couple of pictures — you can see them here and here — to prove it.
But what about the rumors out of Miami that the wide receiver was unhappy about being dealt to the Vikings? What about him spurning the Vikings two year ago? And what about the weather?
In an eight-minute conference call with local media this afternoon, Wallace gave his two cents.
“I’m excited to be here. Fresh start,” the 28-year-old said to open the call. “I’m excited about the opportunity that Coach [Mike] Zimmer gave me, [General Manager Rick] Spielman and the Wilfs. I’m excited. Great city from what I’ve heard. A great young quarterback. A lot of good players on the team. I’m looking just to be an asset to the team. I want to help out and do the best I can.”
In case you can’t get a wireless signal under that rock you’re living under, the Vikings acquired Wallace from the Dolphins last night and then released veteran wide receiver Greg Jennings this afternoon. Asked if he was surprised by what happened with Jennings, Wallace had this to say.
“I got traded yesterday, so it doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “Last week you seen Jimmy Graham get traded, you seen Andre Johnson get released. So in this league, nothing is surprising. It’s all business. And that’s one thing I never will forget about this game, man.”
The Vikings wanted Wallace two years ago, but he chose the Dolphins. He said he did consider coming here, but weather was a major factor in him picking South Beach over the Twin Cities.
“The cold factor was big at that time with an opportunity to play in Miami with palm trees instead of trees with no leaves,” Wallace said. “That was then. This is now. I’m excited to be here.”
Did this beautiful weather today do anything to change his mind about Minnesota?
“I kind of feel like it’s a trick honestly,” Wallace said with a laugh. “I kind of feel like everybody is trying to trick me and make me think that the weather is nice.”
Wallace was on the trade block after reportedly bumping heads with Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, including an incident where he was benched in the second half of the 2014 season finale. And now that the Vikings made the trade to get him, he said he feels “really embraced here.”
“I thought there was a lot of love when I got here,” Wallace said. “Guys really wanted me here. So I’m excited about the fresh start. Wish things could have ended better [in Miami], but you know…”
So that report last night about him being unhappy the Vikings traded for him, was that one true?
“I’m excited. That’s really not true because I didn’t even tell anybody,” he said. “I don’t know where that kind of came from. A lot of people always put words in my mouth. Nobody ever heard me say that. I don’t have any problems with being here. I’m excited. I’m excited for a fresh start.”
Less than 24 hours after the Vikings traded for Mike Wallace, the team released Greg Jennings.
The Vikings signed Jennings to a five-year, $45 million contract two years ago — after Wallace spurned them and signed with the Dolphins. And now that the Vikings have seized this opportunity to add Wallace, Jennings, whose production didn’t match his high salary, became expendable.
The Vikings were about $8-9 million under the salary cap after trading for Wallace last night. The speedster has a 2015 base salary of $9.9 million and is under contract through 2017. He is scheduled to make $11.5 million in each of the contract’s final two years.
By releasing Jennings, the Vikings will free up at least $5 million in cap space. If they designate him as a post-June 1 cut, they can save $9 million in space but dead money will carry into 2016.
The Vikings signed Jennings to a lucrative deal in 2013 because they were desperate to add a veteran pass-catcher for Christian Ponder, their “quarterback of the future” at that time. Jennings was solid despite having to run routes for four different starting quarterbacks in two seasons here.
In 2013, he caught 68 passes for 804 yards and four touchdowns. In 2014, he caught 59 passes for 742 yards and six touchdowns. His chemistry with then-rookie Teddy Bridgewater seemed to be growing down the stretch, as he caught four touchdown passes in the final six games.
But the Vikings felt they needed to upgrade the position and dealt for Wallace yesterday.
It is not known if the Vikings asked Jennings to take a pay cut before releasing him.
Now the 31-year-old, who started his career and won a Super Bowl with the Packers, is a free agent.
Free-agent defensive end Michael Johnson’s visit ended this morning without a deal.
After visiting Winter Park yesterday, touring the area, checking out the construction site of the city’s new stadium and grabbing dinner with Vikings officials at a downtown restaurant, Johnson stayed overnight in the Twin Cities. But head coach Mike Zimmer and the Vikings were unable to close the deal and Johnson headed back to the airport this morning.
Despite his affinity for Zimmer, his first defensive coordinator in the NFL, Johnson plans to meet with the Bengals, his former team, before deciding where he wants to play in 2015.
The Vikings and the Bengals are believed to be the only teams Johnson is strongly considering.
Johnson was released by the Buccaneers on Wednesday following just one season there. Johnson, whom they signed to a five-year $43.75 million contract last offseason, was slowed by an ankle injury and had just four sacks in 2014. His 27 tackles were his lowest total since his rookie year.
It didn’t take long for Zimmer and the Vikings to call him up after his release.
And the Vikings yesterday morning picked Johnson at Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport for their first free-agent visit of the offseason. He was greeted by head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, who drove him to Winter Park for a reunion with Zimmer.
Johnson played his first five NFL seasons for the Bengals with Zimmer as his defensive coordinator. The 28-year-old had 26.5 sacks with the Bengals, including a career-high 11.5 in 2012.
The Vikings were interested in Johnson a year ago, but instead re-signed defensive end Everson Griffen to a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension. Now they are hoping to team Johnson and Griffen up in a defensive end rotation that will also include veteran Brian Robison, who will turn 32 next month, and 2014 third-round pick Scott Crichton, who didn’t play much as a rookie.
The Vikings are surely disappointed Johnson left town without a deal, but they’re still in this thing.