The past few days have brought a lot of conjecture on what is happening with Percy Harvin's status…
Harvin analysis: Trade options, cap impacts
Expect a decision to be made on Harvin's status with the team in the next couple months and certainly before the draft, which starts April 25, if they want to receive maximum value. Getting something done, either the parameters for an extension with the Vikings or a trade, would make most sense before the start of free agency on March 12 so Harvin's team at the time can proceed accordingly in looking to fill needs in free agency.
In fact, the team's decision might already be made with the agenda of gauging the market at the NFL Scouting Combine, a gathering of the top general managers, scouts and coaches from every team, starting next week. And, not coincidentally, most of the influential agents will be there. Since Harvin's agent, Joel Segal, will be there to find out the Vikings' thoughts on keeping Devin Aromashodu (a free agent) and Michael Jenkins (under an inflated contract), there will certainly be discussions about Harvin, too.
With all of those big hitters in the Harvin market in Indianapolis, there is almost no chance his situation won't be brought up – between the Vikings and other teams, between the Vikings and Segal, and likely (as off-limits as it is supposed to be) between Segal and other teams.
Part of what makes Harvin great, his competitiveness, also encompasses some hesitancy surrounding a big-money deal in line with some of the other top receivers out there in the $8- to $10-million range annually. Harvin has no fear in his running style, using power when elusiveness is no longer an option. He won't avoid contact as a means for career preservation, which is great for the present but career-shortening for his future.
There is so much to like about him now and so much to concern teams about his future. Harvin easily led the league in missed tackles forced by a non-running back, according to ESPN, with 22. He also was second in drop rate with only one drop in 81 targets, according to ESPN. Most of the other "high-volume underneath targets" like Wes Welker and Victor Cruz had drop rates in the double digits while Harvin was at 1.52.
Despite missing the final seven games, Harvin met incentives that pushed his base salary to $2.9 million in 2013. Even if he would play for that relatively miniscule amount compared to the other top receivers, consider the incentive for the Vikings to at least look at trading him.
What if the Vikings were able to get a low first-round pick for him (seems low given his talent, but the many layers of durability and personality clashes don't increase his value)? That would mean essentially they would have two picks in final third of the first round and could address wide receiver and another position, and pay not much more than the Vikings are scheduled to pay Harvin. The annual average for the two low first-round picks would be about one-third of what Harvin would be making with a contract extension. Last year, the Harrison Smith contract at No. 29 overall averaged about $1.8 million over the four-year contract. Finding an outside receiver, letting Jarius Wright handle the slot duties and getting a defensive player seems like a good start to the draft.
So where might Harvin end up if all does unravel with the Vikings? NFL.com had a few possibilities.
The New England Patriots are expected to move on without Wes Welker, making Harvin a glove fit. Remember, the Vikings figured the Patriots were hot on Harvin when they selected him in 2009, plus the Patriots are $15.8 million below the salary cap.
The San Francisco 49ers could be looking for a complement to Michael Crabtree, despite obtaining Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. Manningham is coming off a knee injury and Moss might not be back with the 49ers (but you can bet Harvin would want to play with him again). The problem: The Niners are already $1 million over the cap and need to conduct some cost saving in the next month.
The Miami Dolphins might make the most sense. Harvin would be closer to home, young quarterback Ryan Tannehill needs a better receiving corps and Miami has cap room to spare at $43.9 million under the cap.
The Jacksonville Jaguars would be another comfortable geographical fit, but would Harvin be able to "coexist peacefully" if the Jaguars continue to struggle and Blaine Gabbert remains the best option at quarterback? Two big advantages here, however: The Jaguars have $23.8 million in cap space and already possess a big-bodied complement for Harvin in Justin Blackmon. But putting those two together could create all sorts of grumbling.
The Cleveland Browns are second to the Cincinnati Bengals in cap space and are building a young arsenal of offensive playmakers. With $44.7 million to work with under the cap, Cleveland could certainly afford Harvin, although there are rumors that Mike Wallace is their receiving target in free agency. Either way, they could be looking to add to young weaponry that includes Josh Gordon, Greg Little and Trent Richardson.
So where will Harvin end up? The Vikings are still a possibility, but if it's not in Minnesota with an extension, the alternate possibilities will be explored long before Harvin has a chance to hold out of training camp.
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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