Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
Reports out of Minnesota indicate that the Vikings will actively pursue a trade for mercurial wide receiver/running back Percy Harvin. Harvin is one of the NFL's most explosive playmakers, taking handoffs out of the backfield and lining up all over the field at receiver, and through 8 games in 2013 with 60 catches for 667 yards and 5 touchdowns, was being mentioned as a possible NFL MVP candidate. Of course, in Week 9 against Seattle, he suffered what looked to be a high-ankle sprain; he taped it up, returned to the game, but as it turned out, had suffered a complete ligament tear and was ultimately placed on Injured Reserve after sitting out the next few weeks rehabbing the ankle.
Reports now indicate that the decision to place Harvin on the IR was related to another blow-up with HC Leslie Frazier, in front of teammates, and the Vikings did what they thought was best for the chemistry and focus of the team as they made their playoffs push. Even back during the season, ESPN's Tom Pelissaro had been hearing rumors that the team was ready to move on from Harvin after the series of blowups had strained the relationship into 'irreconcilable differences' territory. Harvin is coming up on his contract year and still has quite a bit of value on the trade market -- he's only 24 years old -- and if the team feels that they can't re-sign him or feels that they'd rather not deal with his bullshit anymore, it's worth getting something in return for him.
Now, the Seahawks will almost surely be in the discussion as suitors for Harvin - his former offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell now heads Seattle's offense, so this front office has one advantage that most other teams in the NFL dont' have right now - first-hand experience with and knowledge of a player that's been accused of manipulation and insubordination in the past (not to mention a report that he threw a weight at Brad Childress).
While Seattle has a history of taking chances on players with reputations like this, generally speaking those moves have been no-risk fliers and if they don't work out (they pretty much haven't worked out), the player is released. The one big exception has been Marshawn Lynch, who was acquired for a couple of mid-round picks and then received a big new contract after one season. This move for Harvin would be a little more risky - it'd probably require what one NFL personnel man guessed would be a second- or third-round pick, and then you'd have to go through a contract negotiation (probably prior to the season) that could fetch Harvin $8 to $10 million a year.
This would be a blockbuster move by the Seahawks, who already have over $70 million of their salary cap tied up on the offensive side of the ball. A move, and new deal, for Harvin would require a shakeup that would probably see the immediate departure of Leon Washington and Ben Obomanu ($1.8M & 2.5M salaries, respectively, while Harvin's 2013 cap hit is about $4M), and with a long-term re-sign, would probably mean the Seahawks wouldn't be able to keep Golden Tate and/or Doug Baldwin long-term, unless those two really wanted to stay in Seattle with team-friendly deals.
Still, this is an intriguing option for the Seahawks, and an opportunity to get the rights to a premiere 'touchdown maker' in Harvin for the cost of a second- or third-round pick (reportedly). Seattle also has a chip that most teams don't have: a backup quarterback named Matt Flynn. With Minnesota sitting fairly pretty in cap space right now (~$16M or so) and with many questions still surrounding their franchise quarterback, a more seasoned quarterback with enticing upside like Matt Flynn might be of some value to them to come in and compete with Christian Ponder. This is a team that still feels the sting of having to start Joe Webb in their first-round Playoff game. Bring Matt Flynn into the trade equation, and things could get interesting.
Now, this is all speculation. There's ample chance that the Seahawks have no interest in Harvin, and there's a good shot that Bevell wants nothing to do with him. If that's the case, I do believe that the Seahawks' front office would heed his advice. On the other hand, as Davis Hsu texted to me, if Bevell is pounding the table for Harvin and is giving John Schneider and Pete Carroll his endorsement, this could become very interesting.
As I said, Harvin had 60 catches for 667 yards with five touchdowns through 8 games this year -- and more importantly, this was on a team that heavily features the run and whose identity is based around their running back. Harvin's pace for 120 catches and 1,334 yards and 10 touchdowns is a little more exciting considering he was playing for a team that has a similar offensive identity based around running the football. If he was playing for the Lions or Saints, for instance, things might be a little different.
The Vikings ran the ball 28 times a game in 2011 and 30 times a game in 2012; compare this to 28 rushes per game for Seattle in 2011 and nearly 34 rushes per game in 2012 (1st in NFL). Harvin is getting his catches on a run-heavy team, so though the stats may not transfer to Seattle (the Seahawks' receiving corps is significantly better), you know they're not overly inflated due to being on a pass-happy team.
The other worry with Harvin is his injury history. He has had issues with migraines over the years that has caused him to miss practices, but in his first three seasons he only missed three games. Last year's ankle injury and subsequent blowups with the coaching staff led to an early departure mid-year, but according to the different reports I've read over the past few months, it seems that Harvin has his migraines issue ironed out a bit and ankle injuries aren't indicative of an 'injury proneness'.
I've been monitoring Harvin a bit since the end of the year because I somewhat expected him to hit the market, and the one thing that you'll consistently read about and consistently see on the field is a fiery competitiveness. Like, FIERY, angry, vicious competitiveness. Steve Smith (Carolina) levels of competitiveness and chip-on-the-shoulderness, which just screams Seattle and Pete Carroll's program. For this alone, I personally am very high on Harvin, and actually am probably more intrigued with the thought than I should be.
On many levels, it doesn't make a ton of sense; the need to give up draft picks and/or players, re-sign him immediately, the need to massage his off-field blowups and deal with his maturity issues, and the red-flags around his migraines and ankle injury apply, but yet, his on-field production and game-changing speed/explosiveness and importantly, competitiveness, pique my interest. He could be used in the return game, in the slot, outside, and even in the backfield from time to time (though he didn't 'rush' much more than once a game when he was with Bevell in 2009/2010, which I actually found a little disappointing), so he'd be an emergency option there in case Lynch/Turbin got hurt late in a game or in the Playoffs.
Harvin has a strong history of production and now four years of experience, yet is still younger than Seattle's first-round pick from this past draft, Bruce Irvin. He's the same age as Russell Wilson, too, and the thought of pairing the two of them in Seattle's offense for the next five years or so is certainly one worth entertaining.