This is a very unusual story. The New York Jets have traded a conditional mid-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for former Vikings receiver Percy Harvin.

Interestingly, this gives Percy three bye weeks—the one Seattle already had, this week because the Jets have already played, and the Jets’ future bye week (Week 11), which isn’t to say Percy orchestrated it that way—he didn’t ask for a trade, and certainly not to the Jets.

Sounds like the reason the Seahawks moved on was for generic reasons, but one that means different things depending on how you read it:

For Vikings fans, that sounds familiar—it feels a lot like the locker room problems he was constantly having with two coaching staffs and three quarterbacks.

The Seahawks evidently wanted to make this trade for a while. One interesting thing about the trade: Seattle will eat a significant amount of cap space from a trade, perhaps up to $9.6 million in accelerated cap (the combined cost of the future impact of the prorated salary bonus he received).

In all honesty, I can’t really say with confidence what the biggest reason for the Harvin trade was, though I have to imagine it’s more attitude than talent. Pete Carroll was enamored with Percy Harvin coming out of Virginia back when Carroll was at USC. The talent Percy had that made him a first-round draft pick and an early MVP candidate in 2012 is still all there.

But it’s not inconceivable that it’s for football-only reasons—he took up $13.4 million of cap space on a young team looking to sign new contracts, and was going to take up $12.9M and $12.3M in the following years. While he was taking all that cap space, he grabbed 133 receiving yards and 92 rushing yards for 45 yards from scrimmage a game. There are about 66 players with more, including Jerick McKinnon and Cordarrelle Patterson—both acquisitions made as a result of the trade the Minnesota Vikings made with Percy Harvin (McKinnon with a pick received directly from the trade and Patterson as a replacement).

That said, there’s little question in my mind the Seahawks were using him poorly. Yes, he’s a gadget receiver that thrives on short passes, but that’s not all he did with the Vikings and Christian Ponder throwing to him. His average depth of target was the lowest in the league, for sure, at 4.3 yards a target. But with the Seahawks it’s a full yard shorter (a massive difference).

He’s had four targets over ten yards with the Seahawks of 26 total (15.4%). With the Vikings, it was nearly twice that—28.4 percent. He also had deep targets with the Vikings (passes over 20 yards) and even then the Vikings were underutilizing his deep-threat capability, in part because of the Musgrave offense and in part because of Christian Ponder’s arm—limitations that the Seahawks do not have. Despite that, he’s had no targets of 20 yards or more this season.

On the other hand, his YAC on screen plays with the Vikings was 11.4 yards in his final year and only 5.7 with the Seahawks. Harvin wasn’t a precise route-runner (at all) for the Vikings, but he was a very good one at times. He tended to be more like Chad Johnson than Greg Jennings—he freelanced on the field a little and didn’t hit landmarks with superstar consistency—but he consistently found ways open.

The Seahawks were not particularly creative with him, giving him a lot of hitches and screens, when he really has a large route tree to draw upon—including routes from the backfield, like arrow routes. He’s deadly on whip routes and should be used in combinations like snag and smash. He’s a fine deep threat, too. He’s great out of bunch formations as any of the three receivers, and in particular the F and Z receivers.

Perhaps his on-field play was related to his off-field behavior.

If the wide receiver room was known to have issues, why design plays that enable a receivers’ ego? That may be why Seattle didn’t go to him. Harvin’s touches often need to be manufactured, but not the extent that Cordarrelle Patterson’s do at this point in his career, so the Seahawks may be responding to locker room troubles of the their own. Percy Harvin had more than a few of them with the Vikings, including a well-publicized incident where he was said to have thrown a weight at a coach in a weight room. He sat out of minicamp “not for contract reasons” but because of his role in the offense, and yelled at coaches on the sideline, too. He was known to be a pain when at Florida and in high school. In fact, something you may not know or remember from his high school days in Virginia:

 


UPDATE There are some damning tweets from Lance Zierlein:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And some from Chris Trapasso

 

 

 

Wow. Alright, then. He’s done. Rest of the story, unedited, below.


In the end, it’s likely both football talent and his off-field stuff, and I’m leaning more towards the latter than the former. He may not be worth over $13 million in cap space from his talent alone (though when he’s on, I’m not sure I disagree wholeheartedly that he is), but he’s not talented enough to overcome his other issues, which come with it increasing injury concerns (though he played 15, 14 and then 16 games in his first three years, he played in 9 games, then one game his next two).

In 2009, he was listed on the injury report as questionable in seven out of 20 weeks, though only two of them were for genuine “injuries” with illness (migraines) being the other five. In 2010, he was on the injury report eight times, listed as questionable three times and doubtful once. In 2011, seven more times, questionable four of those times. Of course in 2012, he was listed on the injury report once before the Seattle game, then listed as probable right before that game. After that, he was Out, Doubtful, then Out once more before being put on injured reserve after a bizarre controversy about whether or not he would rehabilitate with the team.

I expect Harvin to be something the Jets are riding on for 2015, not 2014, and if they believe in Geno Smith will be part of a young corps there with Eric Decker. Geno Smith has experience with a Harvin-type player in Tavon Austin back at West Virginia, but if we’re expecting Marty Morninwheg to design plays that matched Holgorsen’s best Austin plays at WVU I wouldn’t hold my breath—Smith has some of the worst screen passes in the NFL, with a 77.8% completion rate (Ponder’s was 87.8% in 2012) and that’s not all his fault—he specialized in those with the Mountaineers. The screen design in New York is abysmal at times.

Further, there are already players on the roster that can be used in the way that Holgorsen implemented his Air Raid for Tavon Austin, like Chris Johnson, T.J. Graham (4.41 40-yard dash, 4.18 short-shuttle, 6.77 three-cone) and Saalim Hakim (rumored 4.23 40-yard dash at his Pro Day). Percy is better than all of those players, but it’s telling that Morninwheg implemented nearly none of the plays that made Geno a highly coveted prospect for much of his final year.

This should cut into Jeremy Kerley’s time on the field, not because they are the same player, but because Kerley is starting when he should be a role player (and a very good one, too). Further, both Harvin and Kerley are better served as slot receivers anyway, so Harvin comes in and takes a role that Kerley excels in.

The Jets will force-feed Percy the ball for better or worse, even if it’s not in the way Geno is used to, so for fantasy purposes will be interesting for a few weeks. If an owner is selling low on Percy (and many will), he’s well worth trading a WR5 or even WR4 depending on your league. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is a good flex option for at least two weeks.

For what it’s worth, the Vikings will play against the Jets on December 7. Mark your calendars for a “revenge game” once more, this time in the cold. Regardless, it looks like the Vikings “won” the trade with Seattle. The locker room drama from Percy Harvin will be magnified by the New York media as well, so that should be fun.

Oh, and before I forget, some GIFs—

“You’ve been traded to the Jets” – courtesy Spencer Hall at EDSBS
Rick Spielman in his office, courtesy Cody Arredondo
Darth Spielman is satisfied, courtesy Matt Holmes