By Matthew Barrows The Sacramento Bee
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After bulking up on wide receivers during the 2012 season, the 49ers must consider bulking up even more on wide receivers during the 2013 offseason.
Two of their wideouts, Randy Moss and Ted Ginn, will become unrestricted free agents next month and two others, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams, suffered ACL tears late in the season. For the second year in a row, only one wide receiver – Michael Crabtree – was consistent from start to finish during the season and can be penciled in as a starter when the 2013 season begins.
All of which makes San Francisco a potential landing spot for Percy Harvin, whom the Vikings reportedly are willing to trade.
Harvin has only one more year remaining on his contract – at an affordable $2.9 million – but wants a long-term deal that would make him one highest-paid receivers in the NFL. And, according to recent reports, Harvin clashed with coach Leslie Frazier after getting into a blow-up with the team’s previous head coach, Brad Childress.
Harvin, who like Crabtree was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft, has rare explosiveness on the field. But his volatility off of it would need to be considered as well.
Here are the pros and cons of the 49ers going after Harvin:
1. Harvin and Crabtree would complement each other. Crabtree silenced critics about his toughness and durability with his gritty and clutch play, and he emerged – obviously, if you watched the 49ers’ final three offensive snaps – as quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s favorite target. The 49ers need someone with deep speed, which Harvin possesses.
2. Harvin isn’t just a sprinter. He’s extremely versatile (he played receiver and running back at Florida) and the Vikings used him in a variety of ways. A creative offensive coordinator like the 49ers’ Greg Roman seems well-suited for pulling the strings on how Harvin is utilized in the offense. Can you imagine a system that uses Crabtree, Harvin, LaMichael James, Vernon Davis and Kaepernick at the same time?
3. If the Vikings want draft picks, the 49ers have them. The 49ers are expecting to have 14 picks in the April draft once compensatory picks are announced, and that number could rise if they trade backup qaurterback Alex Smith. The 49ers could acquire Harvin and still have the ammunition to move up in the April draft.
1. Harvin’s pay could be an issue. The Vikings are struggling with what to pay Harvin, who is signed only through 2013 and who wants a contract extension worthy of a top receiver in the league. Any team that acquires him will face the same issue and may be renting him for one season. Meanwhile, Crabtree has two more years left on his rookie contract while Kaepernick is eligible to have his modest rookie deal renegotiated after next season.
2. So could his attitude. While Crabtree is the wide receiver who entered the 2009 draft with a diva reputation, Harvin has been the one with blow-ups at coaches. Moss wasn’t happy with how he was utilized in the 49ers offense but kept his mouth shut and was a good soldier. Would Harvin behave? And if he didn’t, how would that sit in a locker room led by blue-collar guys such as Patrick Willis and Justin Smith?
3. Is Harven worth the pain? Harvin missed seven games with an ankle injury last season and has a history of missing time with migraine headaches. While the migraine episodes have knocked him out of practice, he missed only three games in three seasons prior to 2012.
4. 49ers need held with punts. Harvin has special teams ability, but it’s as a kick returner, not a punt returner. If the 49ers parted ways with Ginn, their big need would be on punts. They have LaMichael James handling kick returns. Williams can return punts, but the 49ers can’t rely on someone rehabilitating from an ACL tear.