Oddly enough I had actually written most of this BEFORE the situation became a kerfuffle yesterday. I shelved it because at the time it was just kind of an opinion piece with no real need; obviously that’s changed. Since it became huge I decided to break it up into a two-parter; today's focus is on the simple arithmetic of a trade. Tomorrow I'll roll out part two which will focus on the 'philosophy' of it all.
Did you know ‘Percival' is actually Percy Harvin's middle name? That has nothing to do with the story whatsoever, but I was mildly surprised when I found it out. His first name's actually William. Just in case you were wondering, you know.
Okeedokee. One Sir William Percival Harvin III. A lot of fuss has been made about whether or not come the start of 2013 we will have him on the field, or if he will have moved along elsewhere, and we shall be the richer in draft picks for it. See, before the article claiming that sources (of course anonymous) said that the Vikings were indeed looking to move the mercurial receiver, the best we had to go with were comments from Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier post Harvin's return for his exit physical.
Spielman's comments included the phrase "we like him as a football player", and that threw some people in a tizzy. Never mind that Spielman also said about two or three times quotes along the lines of ‘he's a good football player and you don't get rid of good football players'. I simply for my part took the ‘like him as a football player' bit to essentially mean "yeah, he's an ass, but he's really good so we're going to keep him around". While there was some vagueness on how he felt about Harvin when pushed, I found that normal because he wasn't going to come out and say what he thinks personally of the guy. Especially not in a contract year.
Frazier's comments also can be viewed as somewhat vague and non-committal, but not nearly as much. (Which makes sense because Spielman is in draft-ninja mode, whereas Frazier probably couldn't tell a lie if it were to guarantee his team a Super Bowl win.) However, Frazier did point out that he does want Harvin back, and that he expressed as much to him. I know some people will point out that, if the Vikings are trying to build interest in a trade, there's no way you admit that openly at this point. But again, I don't see Frazier here making an outright lie; I do genuinely think he wants him back. We should remember that we've done a complete 180 in our head coach from the days of Brad Childress telling his assistant coaches to lie for him (and a stupid lie at that). To me, if the major plan all along was to trade Harvin, I think Frazier's comments would have been different: again, of course he's not going to tip his hand, but at the same time I don't think he plays along quite so well.
But the interesting point here is this- does Frazier's opinion matter, and how much? Remember, Spielman is the GM now, and these decisions rest in his power and authority. Now I don't think that he would get rid of a player that his HC adamantly felt was necessary for the team's success; I do believe the two men have a better working relationship than that. However, he could do that.
So let's focus on this from the GM's perspective, because the HC's should be obvious: a team with Percy Harvin is better than a team without Percy Harvin. Aside from the fact that I completely agree with Spielman's point that a young team like ours has no business getting rid of an absolute blue-chip player like Harvin (results after his IR designation be damned), there's another major reason that we absolutely should not trade him: nary is there a team that can give us what he's worth.
See, let's start with draft picks. Harvin was drafted #22 overall in 2009. So there's your starting point: Harvin should not command anything less than a pick of equal or greater value. Sure, he will now come with a much larger contract than was originally associated with that pick, but that doesn't matter, and here's why I think that. In 2009 there was no rookie-wage cap. And in a 2009 re-do, Harvin goes top 5. Just look at the first five that went: Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith, Tyson Jackson, Aaron Curry, and Mark Sanchez. Of those, I would still say- despite his injury concerns and somewhat shaky last season- that the Lions would be doing best by sticking with their pick here. But look at the others. Jason Smith flamed out and barely even started at left tackle, the position for which he was drafted. He was so valuable he was traded to the Jets. (For Wayne Hunter.) Tyson Jackson has been OK- I wouldn't call him a bust by any stretch of the imagination, but he hasn't had NEAR Harvin impact for his team. Aaron Curry? So valuable he was traded to the Raiders for a seventh rounder. We're not even going to touch on Mark Sanchez' career. Heck, overall, I'd say Harvin was the 2009 draft's poster boy- sure there were the Crabtrees, Rajis, Cushings, Matthews of the draft, but I how many have such an immediate impact on their side of the ball when they step onto the field? I'd pretty much say none. So while yes, his new team would be giving him a big fat contract extension- it's really not likely more than had he been drafted appropriately in the first place anyways. So the new contract shouldn't hurt the fact that we're starting at #22 and would want to receive better.
But furthermore, let's review the fact that Harvin should have been a top 5 pick. He's still very, very young- so why wouldn't he command a top 5 pick now? Sure, there are the character concerns, but that really shouldn't drop him that much. He plunged in the draft because of marijuana concerns, concerns that have evaporated. And he outplayed even the best expectations, to the point where character concerns start not mattering. (Hence why we're not trading him anyways but that's not the point right now.) Let's say that, because of character concerns, we should realistically adjust to a top 10 pick. I might still disagree but it could be what the ‘market' says.
Those with a top-10 pick as of right now are the Chiefs, Jaguars, Raiders, Eagles, Lions, Browns, Cardinals, Bills, Jets, and Titans. Sure right away you see the Jets and think "they're idiots, they'll take him!", but I just feel like with new management that won't be happening. Not to mention, they are such a circus right now they are the one team that might rightfully consider his character concerns just too much. No way to the Lions anyways, because we do NOT want Harvin in the NFC North; besides having just gotten rid of Titus Young they should be leery anyways. The Eagles just watched their team implode over the past couple of years thanks to spend-easy ways in FA; somehow I feel that with new management, they won't make the same mistake twice and are likely to begin going to Spielman route of almost ignoring it. That narrows it down to the Chiefs, Jaguars, Raiders, Browns, Cardinals, Bills, and Titans. For lack of any better guide, I decided to look at our friends over at Mocking the Draft with their latest mock, and analyzing the chances of the teams giving up the predicted player* in favor of Percy Harvin.
*Yes, mock drafts right now are insane and often 90% wrong. But it was again the best guide I've got for right now.
So, let's begin. Chiefs- Geno Smith. We're not getting the #1 overall for Harvin, that should be assumed anyways. But let's just point out here that the QB needy Chiefs would be nuts to give up the chance for a franchise signal-caller for a wide receiver released because of character concerns- even a receiver as ridiculously talented as Harvin. Jaguars- Star Lotulelei. The Jaguars are doing pretty well at receiver; giving up a chance for a force on the D-line for someone at a position they're already set at makes no sense, in particular via the #2 pick. Oakland Raiders- Luke Joeckel. Apparently this year's Matt Kalil, the Raiders are in about as strong a need for some O-line adjustments as we were when we picked up Kalil. Granted, they are the Raiders, but somehow I don't think it's happening. Browns- Damontre Moore. The Browns are shifting to a 3-4 and will need the personnel to make it happen; Moore will assist that, whereas Harvin will not. Unless he can play OLB, which I'm not sure I would openly state he cannot. Cardinals- Tyler Wilson. Like the Chiefs they'd be silly to give up a chance on a QBOTF for a WR; furthermore, they're not really a needy team in the receiver department, although it has been pointed out quite often that a tandem featuring Larry Fitzgerald and Harvin would be damn near unstoppable. This one could be entirely possible if the team suddenly decides Kevin Kolb could still match his value (admittedly, I do agree he would see a major boost if he just had a shred of an O-line in front of him) and starts to drool over the aforementioned pairing. Bills- Jarvis Jones. While Ryan Fitzpatrick may not exactly be living up to his pay, I would still say the Bills' problems reside far more on the defensive side of the ball. Seeing them give up a chance for a top defensive player in the draft for a mercurial WR doesn't strike me as too terribly likely. Finally, we've got the Titans- Bjoern Werner. Honestly, I could in theory see the Titans potentially giving up the pick. Giving Jake Locker some more help at WR could be seen as a good way to help his progress, and Chris Johnson isn't nearly as reliable as Adrian Peterson; I could see them running an offense similar to what we had at the beginning of the year with Harvin.
So, out of the teams drafting in the top 10, our only shots (in my opinion- tell me why I'm wrong in the comments) are possibly the Cardinals and the Titans. The Cards have a new HC, which means he'll either play his first offseason carefully and conservatively, or he'll look to make a huge splash. With Bruce Arians I'm not sure which way he would go; I think the chances of this happening revolve strongly around what his assessment of Kolb ends up being. If he thinks there's a chance for him to make it, then our odds go up; but if he decides it was a mistake of a trade, then forget it. With the Titans, I just can't get a feel either way whether or not they would consider this move. I would point out how much of a pain Chris Johnson has been regarding his own various contract issues, and bringing in Harvin may not help with that overall situation.
So after we move to the teams that are at pick 11 and below. Now we're going to have to start packaging picks to get fair value, and the more that happens, the less likely teams are going to be interested. There's been a lot of chatter about the Patriots, but they are at pick 29. For lack of a better guide, we'll just stick with the draft value chart. Pick 29 is worth 640; pick 10 is 1300. The Patriots are giving up 660 points to make this right- that means they could trade every pick they've got and are still just short. Color me skeptical, but Bill Belichick strikes me as someone not inclined to literally trade an entire draft for a single player. And no future picks; they're the Patriots, their first rounders are going to be low for a while to come.
And let's not forget of course the old adage regarding trading a proven player for draft picks- you are giving up a sure thing for a gamble. Just look back at the Randy Moss trade, when we did actually net a very good draft pick for him (#7 overall). Throwing in Napoleon Harris, and it should have been a fair enough swap... except then we drafted Troy Williamson with that pick, and we don't need to review how that worked out. I will accept that if Harvin is bolting after his contract is up anyways, or if the final and absolute consensus is that the Vikings cannot coexist with Harvin (which I find hard to believe), then we might as well. But otherwise, it's a dumb move regardless of the pick received.
Of course, when draft picks aren't enough, you can always throw players in. But who out there is worthy of swapping for Harvin that would be swapped? Harvin is a dynamic playmaker who is 24 years old. Sure, I could be convinced to roll with a swap for Larry Fitzgerald, but I don't think that's happening. (As has been pointed out, Arians' first move will not be, under any circumstances, getting rid of his best and most popular player.) What other players out there could we get that would make the trade fair? If it's someone who could truly impact this team the way Harvin does, there's just not a lot of chances that their original team will want to give them up, and for good reason.
Again, if Harvin is leaving anyways, I suppose we should trade him. And I believe it was Tom Pelissero who tweeted that the Vikings would be dumb to not at least listen to offers right now, and I totally agree with that sentiment. But when it boils down to it, the truth is that Harvin is unbelievably valuable to this team- forget not that when sharing the field with Adrian Peterson, there have been times when he has even outshined the cyborg. And there's just not a lot of chances that we're going to see that value being represented in a trade.
Which is why I don't think we're going to be trading him at all- from a numbers standpoint, if you will. Tomorrow I'll explain why I don't think it's happening from a different perspective. Chances are he will be traded before then and I will look foolish.