Vikings show restraint with WR decisions

The Vikings have had a number of big-money decisions to make with their own receivers and outside free agents. Comments from Mike Wallace's father about a Vikings offer prompted some research into guaranteed money, salaries and production for some of Minnesota's biggest receiver decisions of late – Wallace, Greg Jennings, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. How did they do? We crunch the numbers.

When free agency opened, most Vikings observers felt Pittsburgh Steelers free agent Mike Wallace would be Minnesota's top receiving target. If his father's words are true, Wallace was the top choice.

Mike Wallace III, the receiver's father, told USA TODAY that the Vikings offered his son $76 million. The former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver ended up signing a five-year, $60 million deal with the Miami Dolphins with $30 million guaranteed.

The way that contract is structured, however, it essentially guarantees Wallace will be in Miami for two years and earn at least half of the total deal. After that, the Dolphins would be able to release Wallace without too much dead money on the deal – it would cost them about $6.6 million to release him before the 2015 season and $2.2 million less each of the next two years.

So why did Wallace turn down $76 million from the Vikings -- $16 million more than the Dolphins offered – at least according to his father? Here is the receiver's version:

"In free agency, with so many great guys, when you get the prize deal, it's always a good feeling," Wallace told USA TODAY Wednesday. "I just wanted to be happy. Money isn't everything. A lot of people last year, when I held out in Pittsburgh, took it the wrong way, felt like I was just being greedy."

But, as the saying goes, the devil is often in the details.

While Wallace only has a $3.2 million cap figure this year, next year that number inflates to about $17.2 million, a figure that likely wouldn't have been available with the Vikings in 2014 given the number of other important contracts they have coming due then – Jared Allen being the most significant of those.

The guaranteed money was likely a Vikings deterrent, too, as it proved to be in recent free agent history between the Vikings and their top receivers.

In 2011, the Vikings were hoping to re-sign Sidney Rice, who was coming off a promising season, when the lockout of players ended and training camp began.

Instead, Rice signed a five-year, $41 million deal with the Seahawks, including a $6 million signing bonus, but it was the guaranteed money of $18.5 million the Vikings weren't willing to invest in an oft-injured receiver.

In 2009, Rice had 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns – all still career highs – with Brett Favre as his quarterback. He played in only six games in 2010, his final season with the Vikings, because of a decision to have hip surgery on Aug. 23, only weeks before the season started. In 2011, his first season in Seattle, he played in nine games.

Last year was only the second time in his six-year career that he played in all 16 games and he produced 50 catches for 748 yards and seven touchdowns – all of those numbers the second-best of his career. Rice's cap number over the next three years of his deal averages $9.8 million.

Since the Vikings let Rice sign with the Seahawks, Percy Harvin has been their leading receiver. That will change this year, as Harvin also signed a big-money deal – six years, $67 million with $14.5 million guaranteed – as part of his trade to Seattle in March.

Instead of giving big money to Rice or Harvin, the Vikings signed a free agent receiver, Greg Jennings, from the rival Green Bay Packers. Jennings inked a five-year, $45 million deal with $17.8 million guaranteed.

So how have those receivers produced over the last three years?

  • Rice has played in 31 games, averaging 33 catches for 504 yards and four touchdowns.

  • Harvin has played in 39 games, averaging 73 catches for 837 yards and five touchdowns over the last three years.

  • Jennings has played in 37 games, averaging 60 catches for 860 yards and eight touchdowns since 2010.

  • Wallace, meanwhile, has proved to be the most reliable (47 games) and productive of the foursome in average receiving yards (1,095) and touchdowns (nine) over the last three seasons, with only Harvin beating Wallace's reception average of 65 per season.

    "I know this: He's going to give Miami their money's worth," Wallace's father said of his son. "Dolphins fans are going to love him. He worked hard and deserved everything he got. So don't call him selfish."


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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