The Minnesota Vikings have had to fend off trade rumors about its star wide receiver, Percy Harvin for quite some time now while simultaneously attempting to fix the relationship between Harvin and the team's coaching staff and management.
Most recently, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told the media yet again that he and his staff have no intention of trading Harvin (via Kevin Seifert on Twitter).
It is the right course of action, because letting go of a rare talent such as Harvin would be foolish for a team fresh off a playoff berth.
Sure, there have been issues with Harvin. In 2010 a report surfaced from ESPN's Ed Werder that Harvin had an altercation with head coach Brad Childress that would have turned physical had others not intervened:
According to sources, Childress questioned Harvin's effort during the practice. When Harvin took exception, Childress suggested Harvin submit to further testing on the ankle. The debate escalated and "was as close to physical as you can get," according to the source.
After the two were separated, according to sources, a teammate told Harvin: "You just did what a lot of us have been wanting to say for years."
It would be irresponsible to label either party in the altercation as right or wrong, but it is a black eye on Harvin's track record given more recent issues he has had with the team.
Before last season, Harvin told his Twitter followers that he had demanded a trade and skipped a mandatory practice (via NFL.com). Obviously the rough period smoothed over as Harvin went on to play nine games for the team last season.
However, those nine games were not without controversy. Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com documented two incidents where Harvin had a visible altercation with head coach Leslie Frazier (h/t ProFootballTalk):
...Harvin and Frazier argued “in front of some players and staff members.” That would be at least the second incident between player and coach this season; previously, Harvin was seen jawing at Frazier during a game at Seattle—the same game in which Harvin suffered his ankle injury.
Per Pelissero, some believe that the second argument, not the ankle injury, prompted the decision to put Harvin on injured reserve for the bulk of the season.
These incidents, combined with Harvin's battles with migraines and other miscellaneous injuries that have caused him to miss 10 games in four seasons, are the reasons the media are grilling the Vikings about a potential trade.
The rumors are already taking its toll on the locker room, and we have not even reached the NFL draft yet. Quarterback Christian Ponder has already made public his thoughts on the matter (h/t SportsRadioInterviews.com):
He's a tremendous player and he's a Viking. And those are tough shoes to fill, and we don't want to fill them. He's a heck of a player and a heck of a part of this offense and this team in general. Of course we want him back.
To be honest with you, I don't know if we will or not. But me, individually, and giving you my opinion, I wouldn't trade him for nothing...To do the things that he's able to do, I don't think there will be a player able to do it better than him. Ever.
These may seem like strong words from a teammate (and, more importantly, a personal friend), but Peterson hit the nail on the head.
Harvin is a rare talent who gives NFL defenses nightmares. He has an ability to hurt opposing teams at multiple positions. In four years he has flashed an ability to line up as a running back. Last season alone he rushed the ball 22 times for 96 yards—not jaw-dropping numbers, but he does provide another special wrinkle defenses have to prepare for because he is a threat to score a touchdown any time he touches the ball.
Not to mention Harvin is elite on special teams as well. In four years he has amassed 3,183 yards and five touchdowns on kick returns.
Notice how we have not even detailed the position Harvin plays yet? He was the Vikings' leading receiver last season, despite playing in only nine games. He caught 62 passes for 677 yards and three touchdowns.
Ponder is right to sing Harvin's praises—he owes a lot of what minimal success he achieved in 2012 to Harvin. Ponder threw for over 200 yards in seven games last season. Five of those were games in which Harvin was active. 10 of his meager 18 touchdowns came in that same time frame.
There is a reason for that. When Harvin is making big plays, defenses have to throw some attention his way, which opens up opportunities for other players on the field, making Ponder's job much easier. It also makes Peterson's job easier, as defenses cannot stack the box as much to stop him and risk letting Harvin get open deep.
Harvin's productivity on the field and impact on the outcome of games when not even contributing is staggering—enough to dismiss the slight off-field issues.
In fact, there are conflicting reports as to why Harvin demanded a trade in the first place. The same goes for how much money he is looking for as he enters the final year of his rookie deal.
According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Harvin is looking for $10-12 million a year, or at least some think an argument could be made for that type of contract. Most observers believe those financial numbers are what led Harvin to request a trade.
But CBS' Jason La Canfora begs to differ:
Harvin's trade requests have been based on the limitations of Minnesota's passing game and not his contract, according to the source, who has knowledge of the Vikings' thinking. Harvin has not complained about his deal to the team and has never threatened to hold out based on his contract.
Whether or not Canfora's sources are correct, one thing is for certain—the Vikings have an abysmal offense outside of Harvin and Peterson. Ponder has struggled without Harvin; losing such a playmaker over a potential financial dispute would be ludicrous.
There are not many 24-year-old elite receivers in the NFL. The Vikings happen to have one in Harvin, and trading him away now is taking a gigantic leap back. Even if Harvin does want $10 million or more a year, it is a small price to pay for a franchise looking to take the next step after a playoff berth.
The Vikings have painted themselves into a corner with how they have handled the entire situation. Trading Harvin is not an option. No team is going to give up more than a second-round pick for him this offseason knowing the Vikings may let him walk after his deal expires in a year.
Even if the Vikings were to find good value in a trade, the free-agent market for receivers is a joke. There is Dwayne Bowe, looking for his last payday on the tail end of his career.
There is also Mike Wallace, who has shown many of the same behavioral problems but is not as talented as Harvin. Finally, there is Greg Jennings, who is approaching 30 years old and will not have the best quarterback in the NFL throwing him passes anymore.
The bottom line is simple. Vikings management needs to address Harvin's concerns and find a way to make him want to stick around. The team had to know the financial side of things were inbound given his stellar play, so it should be a non-issue.
Now is the time for the Vikings and Harvin to reconcile, agree to a long-term deal and figure out how to take the next step. Anything else should be considered a massive disappointment for the franchise, and Harvin will go on to make another franchise potential Super Bowl contenders.