Now that Percy Harvin's season is over after being placed on the injured reserve list with a torn ligament in his ankle, he and the Minnesota Vikings find themselves in quite the intriguing situation.
The decision to prematurely end his 2012 campaign may have been a necessity at this juncture. But the negative short-term effect could eventually be outweighed by a multitude of positive long-term effects on the organization and Harvin himself.
Really, it's a win-lose move for the Vikings.
Clearly, without Harvin in the lineup for the final four games, the club's chances to make the postseason dramatically decrease.
Although he hasn't played since early November, the Florida alum still leads the team's pass-catchers in targets, receptions, receiving yardage, YAC and first downs gained.
In most of those statistical categories, he leads by a wide margin.
Christian Ponder hasn't vastly improved this season compared to an uninspiring year as a rookie in 2011, but since Harvin went down with the ankle injury in Week 9 against the Seattle Seahawks, Ponder's relatively respectable efficiency has taken a nose dive.
Counting that game, Ponder has completed less than 57 percent of his passes for an average of 140.5 yards per game with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
One can't deem a hobbled-then-unavailable Harvin as the sole for reason Ponder's recent struggles, but it's not surprising that the second-year quarterback's numbers dipped precisely when his most dangerous receiver was no longer active.
While Harvin's absence down the stretch may ultimately factor in to what becomes the third straight season without a postseason berth for Minnesota, all is not lost.
The speedy wideout is entering a contract year in 2013 and is set to make a modest base salary of $1.55 million while representing a $2.67 cap hit.
Had Harvin stayed healthy and pieced together a monster season with, say, over 1,000 receiving yards and over 80 catches on a receiver-needy team, he'd unquestionably have the upper hand in extension talks that could begin in the offseason.
With Harvin's injury now culminating in his first trip to IR, leverage flips back to the Vikings' front office.
The current circumstances aren't totally nightmarish for Harvin, however.
For the first time in what seems like his entire professional career, he won't feel any pressure to return to the lineup before he's fully healthy and will have ample time to get back to 100 percent—undoubtedly a good development.
In the meantime, Harvin actually could gain some leverage.
Minnesota's receiving corps is rather pedestrian without him, and the Vikings' personnel department will likely be reminded of his inherent value over the next four games.
Also, lackluster team receiving numbers in the season's final month should make the offseason acquisition of a supremely talented wideout absolutely paramount, which theoretically would help the entire offense and potentially make Harvin even more of a weapon.
Vikings fans may be disheartened by what Harvin's IR designation could mean for what has been a rather pleasantly surprising 2012 season, but it just may be a blessing in disguise.
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