Seattle Seahawks Cut Losses on Percy Harvin, Put Faith in Russell Wilson

Ty Schalter@tyschalterNFL National Lead WriterOctober 18, 2014

Ted S. Warren/AP Images

The Seattle Seahawks are stuck in the doldrums. After a huge season-opening win, they're playing .500 football and are ranked in the middle of the pack in scoring offense (12th) and defense (14th). The wind's all but gone from their sails, and they've just suffered their first home loss of the year.

With a stretch of winnable games coming up, now's the perfect time for the Seahawks to change tack, get back up to speed and get out of third place in the NFC West race.

That's why general manager John Schneider just got rid of their most dangerous offensive weapon.

Wait, what?

Per Fox Sports' Jay Glazer on Twitter, wide receiver Percy Harvin has been sent to the Jets for a conditional draft pick.

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Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
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"I don't think I've ever seen a game like Percy had," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll told reporters in the wake of their October 6 win over Washington. Harvin scored three touchdowns in the game, but all three were called back on penalties. "He was extraordinary."

Eleven days later, Harvin is gone—and the Seahawks are getting no help in return.

From the outside, this is nonsensical. The Seahawks are built to defend their Super Bowl title. At 3-2 and closer to the bottom of the division than the top, they need of exactly the kind of spark a game-changing talent like Harvin can provide.

The problem: Harvin can be a spark plug, but across the first six games he's been a dud.

Outside of those three phantom touchdowns in Week 5, Harvin has been invisible. His 22 receptions lead the team, but he's averaged a team-worst 6.0 yards per catch. Tight end Luke Willson, who weighs 252 pounds, has been more explosive.

Harvin has run 11 times for an average of 8.4 yards each, thanks to a 51-yard touchdown run against the Chargers—but his only other carry in that game went for minus-six yards.

All told, Harvin's 33 combined carries and catches were just one more than quarterback Russell Wilson's 32. At that rate, the Seahawks weren't getting anywhere near their money's worth.

Dollars and Sense

The Seahawks' trade to acquire Harvin was a chip shove, a bold all-in move to put them in the lead for the 2013 NFC crown.

They sent a first-round pick, a third-round pick and a seventh-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for Harvin. Then, they locked him up to a six-year, $67 million contract with $26.5 million in bonuses and guarantees, per Spotrac.com. This was a massive investment in a player with a history of injuries and off-field questions, but he was a perfect on-field fit for a contender that seemed one player away.

Despite missing all but one regular-season game with a lingering hip injury, Harvin did exactly what he was signed to do: win the Seahawks a championship. When he took Super Bowl XLVIII's second-half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown, he widened the Seahawks' lead to an insurmountable 29-0, putting the game away.

Though Schneider and the Seahawks collected on their massive bet, winning a long-awaited NFL championship for Seattle, Harvin's medium- and long-term places on the team were unclear.

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

The cap-strapped Seahawks already paid All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and fellow Legion of Boom member Earl Thomas. They ended tailback Marshawn Lynch's holdout by agreeing to restructure his deal. They've had to let key members of their Super Bowl roster like receiver Golden Tate and defensive end Chris Clemons leave as free agents.

Wilson, still working under his third-round rookie contract, is going to be due a monster deal if he continues to play like he has, and Harvin's big money might have been a stumbling block to getting that deal done.

For the Seahawks, the choice between Wilson and Harvin is a no-brainer.

Caveat Emptor

All that said, the Seahawks are in win-now mode. Receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are good players, but they don't force defenses to respect, and react to, their talent the way Harvin does. Letting him walk right now, with no immediate help in return, means the Seahawks must have considered losing him addition by subtraction.

Why would that be?

Within hours of the trade's news breaking, local and national reporters came out of the woodwork to relay rumors that Harvin's behavior had become a major, major problem:

Brock Huard @BrockESPN

About that Percy Harvin risk...Know for a fact that the WR room had issues, & must've reached a point that even Pete was unwilling to manage

Peter King @SI_PeterKing

Harvin was more difficult to deal with last year than anybody knows. He has real trust issues with people. No getting it back once lost.

Lance Zierlein @LanceZierlein

History of confrontations w/ teammates contd in SEA according to my guy including punching G Tate during SB week & near fight w/ #3 in ‘14

Could Harvin's behavior finally have crossed an intolerable line? Could his attitude have become so toxic that Schneider and/or Carroll thought the team would be stronger without him?

At the time of this writing, these rumors were nothing but that; still, it seems there's way too much simultaneous smoke for there to be no fire.

Cutting Losses

Whether the Seahawks wanted to clear up cap space, ditch a locker room cancer or just bolster their 2015 draft class, this move doesn't end their title defense. Instead, it reveals Schneider and Carroll's profound faith in Wilson.

He's clearly taken a step forward this season and is in the process of making it his team—not Lynch's, not Sherman's, but his.

The popular perception that Wilson is a caretaker relying on his weapons and defense to make him look good can no longer be accurate. In fact, receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse will make one of the least dominant receiver pairs in football. Lynch's legs alone won't carry the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl; Wilson will have to be the one at the helm.

The Seahawks' next four opponents are a combined 7-14-1. That should give Wilson and company plenty of chances to recalibrate their offense without falling behind in the playoff race.

If Wilson steps up and continues to play as well as he did against Washington, the Seahawks should have no problem contending down the homestretch—or repeating as champions.

In the meantime, Schneider made a risky move that could secure the future of the Seahawks franchise for years to come. Instead of being a one- or two-year wonder that will have to be dismantled and sold for parts, the Seahawks could contend for a decade.


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