The news that Percy Harvin wants out of Minnesota couldn't be coming at a better time for the Vikings, if that's possible. I don't know that there's ever a real 'good' time for your star player to request a trade demand, but with free agency beginning in just a few hours, the Vikings find themselves in a tough yet fixable spot when it comes to Harvin in particular, and the receivers in general.
Not quite a month ago (really, this has been going on at least this long?) I opined that Harvin really had no leverage in this situation, and when you look at it, he really doesn't. For a quick review, Harvin is under contract, coming off of an injury where he missed the final 7 games of the season, and during that time the Vikes went 5-2 and made the playoffs.
Also, the Vikings have a solid history under the Wilf ownership to pony up the cake for guys that produce, so it's not like Harvin is going up against Red McCombs or the Bidwells, which makes Harvin's hissy fit all the more puzzling.
Make no mistake, the Vikings are holding all the cards here.
All that said, Harvin was still the Vikes leading receiver even after missing almost half the season, and there is no doubt that he is the most electrifying player on the field with the ball in his hand. True, Harvin can hold out, and all of this drama can still be enough of an aggravation that the Vikings find themselves between a rock and a hard place, even if they are in the position of advantage here.
If the Vikings don't get Harvin's situation resolved, either by trading him or giving him a new contract, they'll be in limbo in terms of moving forward--do they plan for Harvin's services in 2013? If not, do they trade him or call his bluff and put the ball in Harvin's court?
Trading him seems a long shot, though. He is reportedly asking for Megatron money, which elicited this response from every GM in the NFL:
His contract demands will likely stop any trade talks before they begin, if they're true. And if someone would be willing to pay Harvin what he wants, or close to it, they wouldn't be willing to give up a lot, simply for the risk that's involved.
If they force the issue with Harvin, he has two choices--sit out or play. If he plays, will he be a major league distraction? There were indications that he was last year, but the Vikings did a good job of keeping most of that stuff internal. I don't think that would be possible now.
So with free agency getting ready to kick off, what will the Vikings do? I have no doubt they have planned for this contingency, and I think what the Vikings do in free agency will go a long way in determining what Harvin's future in Minnesota might be.
If they go out and sign Mike Wallace to a big dollar contract, Harvin's all but gone. There's no way Minnesota can afford to pay Wallace and Harvin, and I find it difficult to believe that both the Wallace and Harvin egos could co-exist in one locker room.
If the Vikings aggressively go out and sign two or more lesser wide receivers (think Brandon Gibson or Danny Amendola types) it's not only an effort to upgrade the receivers, but a shot across Harvin's bow. I don't see that as a point of no return, but I would see it as the Vikings telling Harvin that they are prepared to move on without him, and once again, the ball is in Harvin's court.
But it still leaves wiggle room for both Harvin and the Vikings. It's brinksmanship, but one where both parties can walk back from the ledge. If Harvin comes back, the Vikings have a much better receiving corps than the year before and Harvin is still a focal point. If Harvin still wants out, the Vikings can target WR early on in the draft.
Buckle your seat belts kids. It's going to get interesting in a few hours.