Tuesday, June 30, 2015

percy harvin

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.

 

Free agency is right around the corner and one of the biggest offseason mysteries seems to now be resolved.

The NFL Players Association has notified NFL agents that the 2013 salary cap is to be at exactly $123 million, which is only a 1.7% increase from last year.  The formulas, accounting, nuances, and calculations that go into figuring out salary caps is a bear, but 1500 ESPN‘s Tom Pelissero has enough general details to give us an idea of where the Vikings stand.

The salaries that count against the cap are the accumulation of the top 51 salaries on the roster.  That is important to keep in mind, as often fans think signing street free agents or undrafted rookies is a waste of cap space when they may not actually count against the cap at all.

The cap is set at $123 million and the Vikings have $118 committed to their top 51 contracts, which leaves about $5 million left over.  However, a few factors are going to boost that number.  They have about half a million, actually just a little under, of dead money charged against them.

First, the Vikings received a $1.643 cap credit as a result of last offseason’s penalties against the Redskins, Cowboys and Saints for how they conducted business during the uncapped year.  Secondly, the Vikings chose to carry over about $8 million in unused space from last season.

That means, as of today, the Vikings are expected to have about $14.2 million in cap space when free agency opens.  That number puts the Vikings a little better than average compared to the other 31 franchises and in decent shape to make a run at a player or two.

That number could actually grow significantly, as Pelissero points out, by making some moves concerning their current roster.  The team is expected to jettison wide receiver Michael Jenkins, who is owed a $2.425 million roster bonus on March 16th, which would clear about $3.25 million in additional cap space.

Also, veterans like Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield, and Kevin Williams are certain to at least be approached about contract restructurings that could free up a significant amount of cash.  Jared Allen alone carries a cap number in excess of $17 million.

General Manager Rick Spielman has gone out of his way to temper the expectations of fans when it comes to free agency, claiming that the team is likely to be about as inactive as last year.  That is tough to believe when looking at the cap space available to them and some of their pressing needs.

Maybe, just maybe, the Vikings are planning to create more of a free agency stir than what is anticipated.

Of course, they may also just be trying to free up enough space to finally make Percy Harvin a happy camper.

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