By John Boyle Herald Columnist
It took a few years longer than he had hoped — OK, seven-plus years — but Pete Carroll finally landed Percy Harvin.
While a deal cannot be announced until the new league year starts Tuesday afternoon, the Seattle Seahawks have reached an agreement with the Vikings to acquire Harvin, reportedly for a first- and seventh-round pick in this year’s draft as well as a mid-round pick in the 2014 draft. Harvin, who turns 25 in May, is expected to be signed to a multi-year deal as part of the move. The 5-foot-11, 184-pound receiver was entering the final year of the rookie deal he signed with the Vikings, who selected him in the first-round of the 2009 draft.
This is not the first time the Seahawks have made a big commitment to a young offensive player — they gave big, multi-year deals to wide receiver Sidney Rice and tight end Zach Miller in 2011 — but it is the biggest trade, in terms of compensation, that they have been a part of under head coach Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
Any time a team gives up a first-round pick, even a late first — Seattle had the No. 25 pick this year — there is considerable risk. The career expectancy of NFL players is short, and the salary cap makes finding cheap (i.e. young) talent extremely important, so in football more than any other sport, draft picks are extremely valuable.
But for the Seahawks, who were already Super Bowl contenders without any offseason additions, this is a risk worth taking. Heading into free agency, which begins today, the Seahawks had two needs that stood out most: upgrading the pass rush, and finding a big-play threat at receiver. Now Seattle can go into free agency and the draft having checked off one box, not with an unproven rookie receiver — and, by the way, outside of quarterback, receiver is arguably the toughest position to get right in the draft — but with a player who, before suffering an ankle injury in Seattle last November, was being discussed as an MVP candidate.
Prior to that Nov. 4 game against the Vikings, Carroll was asked about Harvin, and he talked about how he tried to bring Harvin to USC — Harvin opted to play at Florida. It was clear hearing Carroll rave about Harvin that he still viewed the receiver as one of the game’s best and most unique playmakers.
“He’s a fantastic player,” Carroll said. “He was arguably the best player in America coming out of (high) school. So the fact that he’s playing with all the top guys and his numbers are on top of league, that’s fitting.”
And yes, Harvin had a reputation of being a difficult personality in Minnesota, hence the trade, but Carroll and Schneider have earned the right to take risks like this because of their track record in Seattle. For starters, they have helped themselves quite a bit in trades, adding key players like Marshawn Lynch — also a player who came here with baggage — Chris Clemons and Leon Washington via trade.
And yes, there is considerable financial risk involved — CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported that Harvin’s new contract could average more than $12 million per year — but Carroll and Schneider get to take risks like that because they have rebuilt Seattle’s roster so well through the draft. The Seahawks will likely be paying three pass catchers — Harvin, Rice and Miller — more than $25 million in 2013. And that’s a ton of money for a run-first offense. But Carroll and Schneider can afford to do that because they have assembled the league’s best defensive secondary while spending very little. And because they found their franchise quarterback in the third round of last year’s draft. And because their two returning starters at linebacker are both still in their rookie contracts.
Will the Seahawks have tough decisions to make down the road when those young talented players — especially quarterback Russell Wilson, cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas and tackle Russell Okung — get to the end of their rookie deals? You bet, but when you find an All-Pro cornerback in the fifth-round and Pro Bowl quarterback in the third, the reward is the freedom to make moves like Monday’s trade for Harvin.
And this trade not only has the potential to make the Seahawks much more explosive on offense, it also took away a potential weapon from NFC West rival San Francisco, which according to reports was also in talks to land Harvin. Instead, the 49ers responded by trading for Ravens veteran receiver Anquan Boldin, meaning two of the NFC’s best teams should be even better on offense next season (following those two moves, the MGM Grand adjusted its odds to make Seattle and San Francisco the co-favorites to win the Super Bowl at 5-1).
Now the fun part will be seeing how the Seahawks and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell utilize Harvin. Bevell, who coached Harvin in Minnesota, knows that he is getting much more than just a receiver. Harvin can line up as a running back and be a threat to carry the ball or to catch passes out of the backfield. And how scary for opposing defense would it be to see Harvin and Lynch lined up together in the backfield with Wilson also representing a threat to run in the read option?
This trade solves one need for the Seahawks, but it does bring up other questions. Do the Seahawks now part ways with Washington, who has been incredibly good, but may now be expendable because Harvin is also an elite kick returner? What does this mean for receivers like Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate? Are the Seahawks now more likely to trade Matt Flynn because Harvin’s big contract makes an expensive backup quarterback a luxury the Seahawks can no longer afford? And does this deal mean the Seahawks have to upgrade their pass rush through the draft because they can’t afford another big signing? Those answers will come between now and April, but for now Seahawks fans can start dreaming about what this offense will look like in 2013 following one very significant addition.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.