The Minnesota Vikings saw how little respect their passing game received when Percy Harvin was injured last season, but the team should not let this experience lead to a poor decision in the ongoing contract negotiations with the star wide receiver.
Harvin proved at the start of last season that he is a fantastic playmaker, and he is now looking to sign a new contract before hitting the free-agency market after Minnesota’s 2013 campaign. Yahoo Sports’ Jason Cole notes why this is putting the Vikings in a bind:
While the Vikings and Harvin's agent, Joel Segal, have yet to exchange contract proposals, it's believed that Harvin wants money closer to what Calvin Johnson got from Detroit in 2012 (eight years, $132 million) than to Jackson or Bowe. That's an average of $16.5 million per year compared to a little more than $11 million for Jackson and Bowe. As one person put it about Harvin, he considers himself a "special" player and executives around the league have fed that attitude by telling people close to him how difficult it is to cover Harvin.
Harvin may be “special,” but he is not on Johnson’s level. When the Lions star—who was considered a generational talent coming out of college—signed his contract a year ago, he was coming off of a campaign in which he caught 96 passes for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns.
In contrast, Harvin has never caught more than six touchdown passes, nor has he ever topped 1,000 receiving yards. Admittedly, his versatility adds to his value, and his ability to create matchup problems out of the backfield and contribute on special teams were a boost to the Vikings this past season.
But last season’s ankle injury and his relatively small frame are concerns about his durability. Still, Harvin only missed three games in his first three years, and his ability to stay healthy should not be the Vikings’ only worry.
According to Cole’s report, Harvin has not handled his contract situation with Minnesota in the most mature and professional manner and “threatened to walk out on the team last offseason after hearing that former Florida teammate Aaron Hernandez received a contract extension after only two years.”
The Sports Xchange (via Yahoo Sports) notes several other incidents that have given Harvin the reputation for being a mercurial player.
When a franchise gives out the type of money that Johnson and Fitzgerald are currently earning, it expects that player not only to put up All-Pro numbers on a consistent basis, but also to be a leader in the locker room and an example for other players.
Johnson and Fitzgerald have shown this. Harvin has not.
The Vikings would be unwise to risk spending top dollar on a player who has yet to deliver a stellar statistical season and has shown a concerning amount of immaturity. Replacing Harvin is a much better option than overpaying him.