Where Will Percy Harvin Play in 2013?
The embers of trade speculation regarding Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin were re-lit over the weekend, as Mike Max of WCCO in Minneapolis reported Saturday that the Vikings will "attempt" to move Harvin this offseason.
Max also reported that an "embarrassing tirade" at Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier prompted Harvin's placement on season-ending injured reserve this past season. The incident is congruent with what Tom Pellissero of ESPN 1500 reported in late December, although Pelissero made it clear that Harvin was placed on IR because of the lack of progression in torn ligaments in his ankle, and not just the outburst in front of teammates and staff.
Just 24 years old, Harvin is set to enter the last year of his rookie deal in 2013. On top of the obvious contractual issue, problems with behavior and injury could drive the Vikings towards moving their best receiver once the new league starts up on March 12.
With the NFL Scouting Combine coming up next week, it's certainly easy to envision Minnesota putting out some feelers to gauge the interest in Harvin. Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says as much here.
The Vikings could also choose to give Harvin a contract extension to keep him in Minnesota long term, but that scenario appears to be getting less and less likely.
In the following slides, we'll attempt to find the most likely place for Harvin to play next season. Considering his age and unique skill set, a number of teams should have a chance to acquire his services.
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Carolina appears to be a natural fit for Harvin, but such a scenario coming to fruition is hardly that simple.
The reasons for the fit are pretty straight forward. Veteran Steve Smith (turns 34 in May) can't stay productive forever, the Panthers probably need another receiver even with a productive Smith and Harvin's skill set as a slot receiver, running back and returner mesh well with deficiencies in the Panthers' roster.
However, the financial implications of this deal make it difficult to imagine.
The Panthers have handcuffed themselves cap-wise over the last few seasons, mostly with big deals to keep their own in-house. Back in January, ESPN's John Clayton reported that the Panthers were currently $11.8 million over the 2013 cap.
Any team that makes a deal for Harvin will want to give him an extended contract, likely worth at least $8 million a season. Carolina simply doesn't have the cap space on hand to do the deal and fit a new contract in.
Odds of Harvin in Carolina: Approaching Zero
The salary-cap numbers negate this otherwise strong fit football-wise.
San Francisco 49ers
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The 49ers may represent the most intriguing fit of any team on this list. Probably the scariest, too.
If Randy Moss and Ted Ginn depart this offseason, San Francisco should have a clear need at receiver this spring. To fill that need with Harvin, the 49ers would need to send a few (reasonably high) draft picks Minnesota's way.
Some teams won't have the capacity to fulfill that requirement, but San Francisco isn't one of them. The 49ers have 11 picks in 2013 and could have as many as 14 after compensatory picks are handed out. This kind of draft capital would give the 49ers the kind of draft capital needed to swing a deal.
Money and the cap are a little trickier for the 49ers, but San Francisco could shed almost $4 million next season by shedding receiver Mario Manningham.
Can you imagine Harvin lining up in the pistol with Colin Kaepernick, while also giving the young quarterback another young, special talent at receiver alongside Michael Crabtree? Scary.
Dealing for Harvin is a risk, but one that's probably worth taking for the defending NFC champs.
Odds of Harvin in San Francisco: Moderate
The 49ers would need to get creative with the cap to get an extension done, but the idea of adding a playmaker like Harvin is something San Francisco should pursue.
St. Louis Rams
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Considering the Rams just claimed headache receiver Titus Young, it's reasonable enough to connect the dots here with between St. Louis and another talented but possibly troubled receiver like Harvin.
However, one must also consider what went into acquiring Young. The Rams gave no compensation to the Detroit Lions and assumed almost zero risk financially. The same can't be said for getting Harvin.
The Rams would need to send draft picks (although they have plenty of them), plus get Harvin to sign a multi-year deal in a reasonable price bracket. If not, the Rams run the risk of having another Brandon Lloyd situation on their hands, where they send a pick (or picks) away to only rent a player for a year or less.
That said, the Rams have the draft capital to satisfy Minnesota's likely demands, and Harvin would add another dangerous playmaker to a young, improving roster. Now, is he worth the risk?
Odds of Harvin in St. Louis: Low
St. Louis has rebuilt a roster mostly via the draft. With three picks in the top 50 this April, I'm not sure there's a huge need in dealing for Harvin now.
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The Bengals are amongst the league leaders in 2013 cap room, and, at least on paper, adding Harvin would give Cincinnati the best 1-2 receiver combination (A.J. Green as the obvious No. 1) in football.
According to Clayton, the Bengals will lead the NFL in cap room at $55.1 million to start next season. Such a number would give Cincinnati the flexibility to give Harvin the kind of multi-year deal he wants.
But do the Bengals have the kind of draft capital to swing a deal? And is the potential distraction of Harvin worth the locker room headache in Cincinnati? These are real questions that don't have sound answers.
Odds of Harvin in Cincinnati: Low
It's hard not to love the idea of Andy Dalton throwing to both Green and Harvin for the foreseeable future, but the logistics of a move don't favor Cincinnati.
New York Jets
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Naturally, any kind of trade for a receiver with some baggage eventually makes its way to the Jets.
New York still has a need at receiver, and Harvin is the kind of the unique talent that could help an offense that is clearly having issues at the quarterback position.
The Jets also have the biggest trade chip available in cornerback Darrelle Revis. Could the two sides finagle a deal that sends Harvin to New York and Revis to Minnesota, in a way that benefits both sides?
The two teams would need to get creative to pull off such a trade package.
Odds of Harvin in New York: Approaching Zero
The whole scenario feels unlikely. Harvin could be a ticking time bomb under the media lights of New York, and the last thing the Jets need is another non-football problem to deal with.
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A young, explosive offense led by quarterback Robert Griffin III could jump from very good to elite by adding a player like Harvin to the mix.
Imagine the talent: An eventually-healthy RG3, 1,600-yard rookie runner Alfred Morris, vertical threat Pierre Garcon and Harvin make a quartet of offensive playmakers that wouldn't have many NFL equivalents.
All that said, fantasy must meet reality here.
The Redskins already dumped most of their valuable 2013 draft capital to get RG3, and the cap situation heading into this offseason is tight. Both factors make it unlikely for Washington to swing a deal.
Odds of Harvin in Washington: Very low
Washington simply doesn't have the picks or cap space to deal for Harvin and keep him under contract long term.
New England Patriots
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Maybe no fit outside Minnesota works out better for both sides than Harvin landing in New England.
Current slot receiver Wes Welker is an unrestricted free agent, and there's no easier way to replace his contributions to the New England offense than adding the multi-talented Harvin. It would allow the Patriots to comfortably move on from Welker, who turns 32 in May but still might demand money close to what Harvin wants.
Nearly eight years younger, and currently more versatile, Harvin is the perfect substitute.
Judd Vulgad of ESPN 1500 reported last month that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick "loves" the 24-year-old, which makes sense given his affinity towards the University of Florida. Also, his experience molding troubled players into manageable assets should be another point in New England's favor.
The Patriots could always re-sign Welker, but the fit for Harvin and history of Belichick in similar situations is hard to ignore.
Odds of Harvin in New England: Moderate
New England could move on from both Welker and Brandon Lloyd this offseason. Meanwhile, Harvin is the kind of asset that Belichick covets and would be willing to spend draft capital and cap space on. We'll see.
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While recent reports seem to indicate otherwise, let's not rule out the possibility of Harvin playing next season with the Minnesota Vikings.
Keep in mind, Harvin is still under contract at a very manageable price ($2.9 million base, $4.02 cap hit), and the Vikings have precious few options at receiver behind him. The team made the postseason without his services late, but that wasn't due to extraordinary receiver play. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
Also, reports have been contradictory regarding his standing within the organization.
Earlier this month, ESPN 1500 reported that Harvin was in a "good frame of mind" after an exit interview that included a "good conversation" with head coach Leslie Frazier. In January, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told Viking Update there were "no issues with Percy Harvin."
While NFL decision-makers aren't known to be 100 percent honest, these reports run counter to any speculation now that the Vikings are attempting to move Harvin.
Odds of Harvin in Minnesota: Moderate-to-High
I'm still not sold on the idea that the Harvin ship has sailed in Minnesota. Also, any return the Vikings could potentially get in a trade would be dwarfed by the unique impact Harvin brings to the field every Sunday. Young, vastly talented and cheap for 2013, Harvin shouldn't be rushed out of the door.