The Vikings’ silence during the first week of NFL free agency is officially over.
On Friday evening, the Vikings finally made some noise by agreeing to a trade with the Miami Dolphins for speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace, the deep threat they have lacked.
The Vikings sent a 2015 fifth-round draft pick to the Dolphins for Wallace. The Vikings also will receive a 2015 seventh-round pick from the Dolphins in the deal.
The trade was their first significant move since the start of free agency on Tuesday, and it enabled them to acquire a player they coveted in free agency two years ago.
In 2013, when the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed Wallace to reach free agency, the Vikings were among the teams bidding for Wallace’s services. But Wallace took his talents to South Beach, in part because he preferred beach weather to blizzards.
Now, the Vikings have their man, giving second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a dangerous downfield target who is expected to open up things for the team’s other pass-catchers.
In two seasons with the Dolphins, Wallace caught 140 passes for 1,792 yards and 15 touchdowns. His 12.8 yards per reception in Miami were well below his average in Pittsburgh because of his inability to click with Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill on downfield passes.
Wallace reportedly was on the trading block after wearing out his welcome with Dolphins coach Joe Philbin.
According to the Miami Herald, the situation came to a head in the 2014 season finale when Wallace asked to be removed from the game. However, both Wallace and Philbin denied that report, saying that Wallace’s second-half absence was a “coach’s decision.”
Wallace created an awkward scene in the locker room after that 37-24 loss to the New York Jets, asking teammate Brandon Gibson to speak to media while he stood silent.
The Vikings, though, were willing to gamble on a speed receiver with big-play ability who was clocked at 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the 2009 scouting combine. Wallace, a third-round pick of the Steelers that year, struck fear into NFL defensive backs while in Pittsburgh, routinely running under long throws from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Bridgewater had trouble connecting with his wide receivers on deep balls early in his rookie season but showed improved accuracy near season’s end. The Vikings — and probably Wallace, too — are hoping Bridgewater will be able to hit him deep.
Wallace 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.
Friday’s trade came hours after the Dolphins acquired young wide receiver Kenny Stills from the New Orleans Saints.
The Vikings already have invested heavily in the position by signing veteran Greg Jennings to a lucrative five-year deal in 2013 — after whiffing on Wallace — and selecting raw but talented Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round of the 2014 draft.
But Jennings produced only 742 receiving yards in 2014 and Patterson was outperformed by Charles Johnson and Jarius Wright and was benched in the middle of the season.
There were rumors Thursday that the Vikings were considering trade offers for Patterson, who regressed after a promising rookie year, but that was strongly denied by a league source.
Jennings, meanwhile, has a salary-cap figure of $11 million in 2015 — second on the team to only running back Adrian Peterson — but the Vikings can free up $5 million in cap space by parting ways with Jennings. He seemingly doesn’t have much trade value, though.
General Manager Rick Spielman pulled the trigger on the trade before joining defensive end Michael Johnson, the first free agent to visit the Vikings this week, at dinner in downtown Minneapolis.
The Vikings picked up Johnson at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Friday morning. He was greeted by head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and whisked away to Winter Park to meet with team officials and his old coach, Mike Zimmer, Johnson’s defensive coordinator for five years with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Johnson was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday following only one season there. Johnson, whom the Buccaneers signed to a five-year $43.75 million contract last offseason, was slowed by an ankle injury and had only four sacks in 2014.
Johnson stayed overnight in Minnesota, a good sign for the Vikings after what a league source described as a very good visit. Johnson and the Vikings will continue their visit on Saturday. But the Vikings aren’t the only team interested him. The Bengals are viewed as the other top contender to sign him.
Still, after a quiet first three days of free agency in which the team’s only addition was signing backup quarterback Shaun Hill, the Vikings are starting to make moves to improve a team that finished 7-9 a season ago.