Not long after the Vikings got the fleet-footed deep threat they have coveted for a couple of years, the other shoe dropped on their now-former No. 1 wide receiver.
The Vikings released Greg Jennings on Saturday afternoon, fewer than 24 hours after they acquired wideout Mike Wallace in a trade with the Miami Dolphins. When the Vikings finalized the deal for Wallace — who picked Miami over Minnesota in free agency in 2013, leading the Vikings to sign Jennings soon after — he quickly became expendable.
The Vikings announced Jennings’ release at 1:10 p.m. Fifty minutes later, they introduced Wallace, already in the house at Winter Park, to local media on a quick conference call.
“It’s unfortunate that I’m not going to get a chance to play with [Jennings],” Wallace said. “I think he’s a great player. But I’m excited about the guys that are here.”
Jennings never lived up to the five-year, $45 million contract he signed two years ago. The Vikings handed Jennings that lucrative deal in 2013 because they were desperate to add a veteran pass-catcher for former quarterback Christian Ponder, and Jennings had been the top target for Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Jennings put up decent numbers despite having to run routes for four different starting quarterbacks in his two seasons here, catching 127 passes for 1,546 yards and 10 touchdowns. Four of those receiving touchdowns came in the final six games of 2014 as he began to click with then-rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
But the Vikings felt they could upgrade the position and dealt for Wallace on Friday. And once the Vikings got their new No. 1, speculation began that Jennings could soon be gone.
The Vikings were about $8 million to $9 million under the salary cap after trading for Wallace. The speedster has a 2015 base salary of $9.9 million and is under contract through 2017. By releasing Jennings, they 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 but dead money will carry into 2016.
It is not known if the Vikings asked Jennings to take a pay cut before releasing him.
Wallace figured he would be playing with the 31-year-old in 2015, but not long after meeting head coach Mike Zimmer at Winter Park, the team announced the move.
“I got traded yesterday, so it doesn’t surprise me,” Wallace 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.”
After two seasons, 140 catches, 1,792 yards and 15 touchdowns with the Dolphins, Wallace was put on the trading block after reportedly butting heads with Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. Wallace did not play in the second half of Miami’s 2014 season finale, but the 28-year-old on Saturday denied a Miami report that he had benched himself.
Wallace also disputed rumors that he was unhappy about being traded to the Vikings.
“I don’t know where that kind of came from,” Wallace said. “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.”
Not even with the weather? Wallace admitted that his preference for “palm trees instead of trees with no leaves” was a factor in him picking the Dolphins over the Vikings in 2013. But he insisted that things have changed.
Of course, Wallace said that on a beautiful Saturday in the Twin Cities. But he has heard from friends about the cold Minnesota winters and was suspicious of the current weather.
“I kind of feel like it’s a trick, honestly,” Wallace said with a laugh.
Somewhere, during that playful moment, Jennings was coming to grips with the end of his time with the Vikings. Wallace, meanwhile, swore he is excited about getting a fresh start here.
“I’m excited,” Wallace said. “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.”