Percy Harvin on Trade Block: 5 Teams That Could Use Minnesota Viking's Services

Jamal CollierAnalyst IIIFebruary 11, 2013

Percy Harvin on Trade Block: 5 Teams That Could Use Minnesota Viking's Services

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    Percy Harvin has gone from the IR to the trade block. The Minnesota Vikings put the all-around playmaker on injured reserve for a sprained ankle in December that he suffered Nov. 4 against the Seattle Seahawks.

    He had asked for a trade before the 2012 season, but ultimately suited up for Minnesota nine times in the regular season.

    Chris Wesseling of NFL.com reported Sunday that the Vikings will now be looking to move the star wide receiver as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

    Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com adds that Harvin’s injury timeline was legitimate—there was actual uncertainty involved before he was sent to IR—and that an NFL personnel guy expects Minnesota to trade him for a second- or third-round pick.

    That sounds like it might not be enough.

    The Chicago Bears sent two third-rounders to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for the services of bona fide No. 1 wideout Brandon Marshall around this time last year. Marshall was fresh off of a season in which he tallied 81 catches for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns with quarterback play that inspired a top-eight NFL draft pick investment at the position in 2012.

    He turned 28 years old days after being traded, and he already takes a sizable chunk out of the NFL salary cap. Each of the four years on his current contract (which runs through 2014) is a $9 million-plus cap hit.

    Harvin caught 62 balls for 677 yards and three touchdowns—as the No. 1 WR in a universally panned passing game—in addition to rushing 22 times for 96 yards and another score.

    He also adds value in the return game: He’s taken a kick back at least 95 yards to the house every year he’s been in the NFL, including 101-plus-yard returns in three of his four seasons. Harvin was so productive in 2012 that his name came up in MVP discussions—and people were serious.

    Oh, and he’s 24.

    Add in the fact that Harvin’s contract requires just $4 million to come off the books in 2013 and you have a guy who should be at least as valuable as Marshall was in 2012. Like Marshall, Harvin has thrived in a No.1 receiver role. He’s also given his front office fits.

    The 5’11”, 184-pound Harvin isn’t the physical specimen that the 6’4” 230-pound Marshall is. Perhaps that’s where the diminished expectations of Harvin’s trade value are derived—or maybe they come from his potential salary demands. The average of the top 10 highest-paid NFL wide receivers’ average salaries is over $10.8 million.

    Harvin will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2013 season. As is, Minnesota’s trade partner would have to be content with securing his services at a discount for next season and trying its luck with him as a free agent next spring.

    Another—and likely preferred—option is to agree on a long-term deal with Harvin prior to trading for him.

    Regardless of the route that a franchise seeking to acquire his services takes, one thing’s for certain: Harvin will succeed at the NFL level. His accomplishments in the league are obviously more abundant than the league’s incoming draft class, and he’s not much older than the rookies will be.

    A team in need of a receiver should find his availability quite enticing.

     

    All player salary information comes via Spotrac.com unless otherwise indicated.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Cincinnati Bengals will soon have to pay a lot of young studs on their roster. Defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap will be unrestricted free agents after 2013. Offensive centerpieces Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham and BenJarvus Green-Ellis all expire the season after that.

    Still, the Bengals should have more than enough cap room to retain their expired contracts this offseason, offensive tackle Andre Smith among them. ESPN’s John Clayton calculated a league-high $55.1 million of space for 2013 for Cincinnati.

    If Cincinnati traded for Harvin, it would have to lock him up long-term. The Bengals could front-load his deal so that re-signing their offensive pieces—Green especially—isn’t a problem in the future.

    That maneuver would come with some holdout risk: Harvin will be approaching his age-27 season when Green’s rookie deal is set to expire.

    The slot man would be nightmarish for defenses that already have to game-plan for Green on the outside. 

Houston Texans

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    If the Houston Texans are serious about getting a legitimate playmaker to line up opposite Andre Johnson, now is the time to do it. Houston will have to pay J.J. Watt sooner rather than later, but Johnson will be 32 years old at the start of the 2013 season. He’s coming off his first 16-game season since 2009.

    Waiting until Johnson regresses with age—whenever that may be—would be foolish; Houston’s championship window is now. Johnson caught 112 passes for 1,598 yards and four TDs, at least doubling the totals of each of his wide receiver teammates.

    The four other wideouts on his team combined for 63 grabs, 841 yards and four scores on 121 targets. Johnson was targeted 164 times. You never want to throw away a draft pick, but the sacrifice of sending a mid-round selection for Percy Harvin—who is in a contract year until further notice—is well worth it.

    The Minnesota Vikings shouldn’t expect to receive the same amount of compensation from a team expecting only one year from him while hoping for more as they would return from a franchise that knows he’ll be in its uniform for the foreseeable future. That’s why it isn’t very likely that Harvin is shipped off to Houston, but the Texans would be doing themselves a disservice if they don’t make the call.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Let’s be clear: The Kansas City Chiefs have a lot of needs. That’s why they’re picking No. 1 overall.

    Wide receiver isn’t the biggest among them—especially if they retain Dwayne Bowe—but Percy Harvin would be a difference-maker in new head coach Andy Reid’s offense.

    Dexter McCluster, the team's all-purpose playmaker, will be a free agent after the 2013 season.

    McCluster isn’t dealing a major blow to the cap now ($630,000), but former No. 3 overall pick Tyson Jackson is. Jackson’s salary will count $14.7 million against the cap in 2013 before it expires. Pass-rusher Tamba Hali’s pay will shrink from $12.25 million to $6.25 million in 2014.

    Unless they re-work their deal with Jackson or Matt Cassel ($7.5 million in 2013, $9 million in 2014), the Chiefs might have a hard time retaining both left tackle Branden Albert and wideout Dwayne Bowe while pursuing Harvin this offseason.

    John Clayton has Kansas City at $16.1 million in cap room, but the Chiefs could clear room to offer a long-term deal to the Minnesota Vikings receiver.

    Harvin’s 62 receptions would have placed first among Kansas City wideouts—and he played nine games.

New England Patriots

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    Word out of New England is that the New England Patriots may cut ties with both of their starting wide receivers, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.

    If the Patriots allow both soon-to-be 32-year-olds to walk, then the targets of 304 Tom Brady passes won’t be in uniform next season.

    That’s almost half of Brady’s 637 throws.

    Welker and Lloyd combined for 192 catches, 2,265 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012. Without them, someone’s going to have to move the ball.

    Of course, New England has the prolific tight end tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who do a lot of damage in the middle of the field.

    Percy Harvin is versatile enough to work outside or in the slot. Doug Kyed of the New England Sports Network sees Harvin as “the perfect fit” for the Patriots while noting that coach Bill Belichick has an affinity for his Florida teammates.

    New England isn’t afraid to take risks on talented guys with potential character issues. The Pats traded for cornerback Aqib Talib while he was suspended.

St. Louis Rams

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    Even if Titus Young can keep his antics under wraps, the St. Louis Rams will need more help at wide receiver. They simply don’t have enough at the position. Danny Amendola is an unrestricted free agent, so the Rams are likely planning to shell out for at least wideout this offseason.

    Percy Harvin, who averaged 8.9 yards after the catch per reception, would be an upgrade at the position. Amendola averaged 4.2 YAC, less than half that. The redundancy in terms of personality-driven problems between Harvin and Young could be an issue for the Rams, but the infusion of talent certainly wouldn’t be.

    St. Louis has veteran leadership in place and enough footballs to go around for the two of them. Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Austin Pettis are still developing; none of them have done a whole lot at the professional level.

    Young and Harvin may not both make it through 2013 without incident—especially if you put them together—which is why the Rams would be wise to trade for Harvin and let him play out his deal before looking to extend him.

    Brandon Lloyd was acquired under even more temporary conditions in 2011. He played 11 games with the team before departing via free agency. This isn’t the same regime that pulled off the Lloyd deal, but Sam Bradford needs playmakers.

    Harvin is also an accomplished special-teams maven, something that St. Louis lacks. The Rams averaged 21.0 yards per kickoff return and 6.6 yards per punt return. The Minnesota Vikings ace hasn’t run a punt back in the NFL, but he averages 27.9 yards per kickoff return in his career.

     

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