Thursday, July 30, 2015

percy harvin

The Vikings desperately need a receiver capable of taking the top of a defense if for know other reason than to give Christian Ponder a no-excuses 2013 season in which he will be expected to make major strides as an NFL quarterback.

Minnesota is expected to make a run at receivers via free agency and also invest heavily in the position during April’s NFL Draft.  Percy Harvin remains a giant question mark right now, so that leaves only Jarius Wright as a receiver on the roster with any notable experience in the NFL, and that isn’t saying much.

Greg Jennings has been tossed around as an option for the Vikings, and he still might be, but as opening day of free agency draws nearer it appears Steelers free agent receiver Mike Wallace is going to be the focus of “reports.”

Jeff Darlington of NFL.com penned an item on Wednesday all about the Miami Dolphins and their need to provide Ryan Tannehill with more weapons.  Buried in the article, however, is a line about how Miami’s General Manager Jeff Ireland fully expects to be in a bidding war with Minnesota for Wallace’s services.

I can’t say that I am overly surprised.  Wallace is only 26 years old, has some of the best speed in the NFL, and has made some great catches over his career.  At 6′ 0″ and 199 pounds he has adequate size to be a top receiver capable of keeping defenses honest, and hopefully opening up the ground game for Adrian Peterson.

On the other hand, Wallace has proven to be somewhat inconsistent and has had trouble with drops of late.  If Christian Ponder is unable to take advantage of Wallace’s deep threat skill set, and Wallace struggles running shorter routes and making tough catches, I worry that we could be seeing another version of Bernard Berrian.

I also worry that, in a league where teams really don’t harbor two high-priced wide outs on one roster, that signing Wallace to an inevitably large contract would simultaneously be signing Percy Harvin’s pink slip.  Wallace could very well command a five year deal worth in excess of $40 million, if not much more.

Still, the Vikings must eventually take a chance on somebody if they want to make a genuine effort at creating a whole offense, and Wallace appears to meet the criteria to be a key piece in that puzzle.

I have said many times over the last few months that Percy Harvin is not in the drivers seat when it comes to this game of chicken he is supposedly playing with Minnesota’s front office.

Harvin has one more year on his contract.  Any sort of holdout would almost certainly end 10 weeks into the 2013 season, which would give the Vikings a healthy Harvin heading down the stretch towards the playoffs, and his pay would be decreased with every passing week that he isn’t in uniform.  After that he could, if the Vikings so desired, be retained via the franchise tag for two more years.

Still, the Vikings would surely prefer to sign their talented young receiver to a reasonable long-term contract and put this whole situation to bed.  Dwayne Bowe’s recent contract with the Chiefs, however, could widen the gap between what Harvin think is reasonable and what the team thinks is reasonable.

Bowe signed a five year deal worth up to $56 million, which included a $15 million signing bonus.  The deal includes a total of $26 million and places Bowe into the top three highest paid receivers in the NFL.  Harvin and his agent, however, would almost certainly like to knock Bowe into fourth place very soon.

Harvin has never had a 1,000 yard receiving year, while Bowe has had three, and unlike Bowe he has never caught double-digit touchdowns in a season.  Harvin, however, provides multiple dimensions to his game via taking snaps as a running back and being one of the NFL’s best kick returners.  There is little arguing that both are game changers, but there is also little arguing that Harvin is prone to change a game a hell of a lot faster.

Harvin is four years younger than Bowe, as well, so it is safe to assume that he will be expecting his second contract to be one that pays him in excess of what Bowe is now going to be earning.

Back in December I speculated that Harvin would command a five year deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $55 million, with $25 million in guarantees.

Now, after seeing Bowe’s new deal, I am guessing it is going to have to be somewhere closer to $60 million with $30 million guaranteed.

“Percy Harvin is being traded to the New York Jets in exchange for Darrelle Revis.”

I can just hear those words flowing off the tongues of numerous casual NFL fans at the water cooler tomorrow morning, and I want to tell you why you might be hearing that, despite the fact that it is a very far-fetched idea that has an incredibly low probability of actually happening.

Last year, infamous Twitter personality “Incarcerated Bob” claimed to have inside knowledge that the Vikings were shipping Harvin to the Jets in exchange for a second round pick.  Of course, the trade never happened, and “Bob” later claimed that it was the Jets that foolishly backed out of the deal at the last second.  “Bob” has a very loyal fanbase that swear by his “reports” and therefore a good deal of them have been expecting the Jets to once again, after Harvin made a strong pre-injury case for the MVP award, talk to the Vikings about taking the troubled utility man off their hands.

Now, local Minnesota media like 1500 ESPN and Access Vikings did little to quiet the crowd this season, reloading a boatload of Harvin-being-traded speculative stories time and time again.  Between all of these reports, and a lack of denials from Harvin himself, pretty much everyone seems convinced Harvin has worn a purple jersey for the last time.

Now, nobody likes some good old fashioned speculation more than I do, but Dan Pizzuta of Rant Sports recently connected some dots and wrote an article about the possibility of the Jets sending star cornerback Darrelle Revis and his massive contract demands to Minnesota in exchange for Harvin.  The article makes for some interesting fan fiction, but I promise to post a video on this site of me doing the Harlem Shake in a cheesehead if it actually comes true.

That didn’t stop Evan Bleiee, on opposingviews.comfrom erroneously calling Pizzuta’s speculation article a “report” that “has Revis heading to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for playmaking receiver Percy Harvin” and making it seem like more fact than fiction.

Now that there is a “report” of Revis-to-Minnesota and Harvin-to-Jets out there, however, I can just hear the morning shows citing it like there is something of substance behind it.  After all, these same media types ran specials on Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend without doing enough fact checking to realize she didn’t exist.  They are the same ones that thought it was so special that a female kicker was trying out for the NFL, despite the fact that she wasn’t even a kicker.

So, when you hear that conversation at the water cooler tomorrow morning, you can explain to your co-workers exactly how these things get blown out of proportion.  Tell them why the trade makes no sense.  Promise them it isn’t going to happen.

Offer to do the Harlem Shake while wearing a cheesehead if you are wrong.

What’s the worst that could happen?

One month ago today the Vikings signed a CFL cornerback and they haven’t made a single roster move since.

Monday, however, the team predictably started the retooling process with their receiver group by cutting veteran Michael Jenkins, according to Adam Schefter.  Jenkins, 30, played two seasons with the Vikings where he accounted for 78 catches, 915 yards, and five scores.

A $2.425 million roster bonus was due to Jenkins this month so the Vikings were forced to decide between cutting him or investing heavily in an aging receiver that has never topped 800 yards in a season.  The decision to part ways with Jenkins provides the Vikings with a cap savings of $3.25 million, putting them at about $17.5 million in space, so it is obvious why they made the decision they did.

The Vikings receiver group was suspect even before Jenkins was cut, but now they are left with a group with more question marks than a suit worn by a Jim Carrey character.  Percy Harvin seems troubled, a Greg Childs return from injury would be unprecedented, and Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu are pending free agents.  If Harvin’s circumstances don’t have him on the field opening weekend, that leaves Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton as the team’s only receivers with notable NFL experience on the roster, and that isn’t saying much.

This is just the latest sign in a long row of them that Rick Spielman and his staff are gearing up to load the receiver depth chart with new faces in an effort to improve Christian Ponder’s 31st ranked passing offense.

If the team finds themselves in a bind down the road, and he is still available, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Jenkins back with a reduced price tag.

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

The Vikings are about as needy at the receiver position as any team in the NFL.  That is why, at least on the surface, it might seem odd that they are very rarely being linked to one of this Draft class’s most dynamic pass catchers Tavon Austin.

The biggest reasons Austin is being overlooked by Vikings observers is his small frame that is likely going to prevent him from ever being a true #1 wide out in the NFL.  At 5′ 8″ and 174 pounds, Austin is built for the slot and flanker position, which the Vikings already have nailed down Percy Harvin and Jarius Wright.

Austin, along with quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Stedman Bailey, put on quite the show during his time at West Virginia.  In 2012, his senior season, Austin had the best season of his career.  He had 114 catches for 1,289 yards with 12 touchdowns, while also gaining 643 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

I am not big on using “player comparisons” as a way of evaluating rookie prospects, as it sometimes creates a false sense of expectation, but it is hard not to describe Austin’s skill set without pointing to Harvin’s production since entering the league.  He is incredibly fast, agile, and quick.  He turns on a dime and plays bigger than he is when contact is made, and seldom seems to miss an opportunity to make a play.  Like Harvin, he is plenty capable of playing as a scat back and return man, with the versatility to move all around the field and keep defenses on their toes.

At the same time, Austin will be knocked for the same things Harvin was dinged on coming out of Florida (minus the character worries, though) such as his small size and durability concerns.  Other than that, however, there is very little to worry about when evaluating him.

I will admit that the Vikings aren’t the most likely landing spot for Austin, even though #23 seems about right for him to come off the board, but the guy has such incredible talent that I would be surprised if there was an NFL team that has completely dismissed the idea of drafting him at some point.  On one hand it might seem like there is no spot for him on the Vikings, but on the other hand it is hard to watch his tape and not find yourself assuming he would be a playmaker in any offense.

Where things could get really interesting is if the Vikings do end up swinging a pre-Draft trade that ships Harvin out of town, like some have speculated will happen, because drafting a guy like Austin would suddenly make a whole lot more sense.  After all, he is an awful lot like Harvin, except without the headaches… or the migraines.

 

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