Yesterday we referred to Percy Harvin as Christian Ponder’s work wife, which was weird and maybe a little creepy (alright, definitely really creepy). We also said that he’s unhappy with his current situation in Minnesota, which is true and more than a little concerning if you’re a Vikings fan.
What we didn’t say specifically is exactly why he’s unhappy, because we couldn’t. Harvin wouldn’t tell anyone, so we were all forced to look at the numbers with dollar signs in front of them that are attached to his name, and make a very educated guess. After finishing just 33 receiving yards short of his first 1,000-yard season despite having to cope with the inconsistencies of a rookie quarterback, it seemed like a safe assumption that Harvin wants to get paid while he’s still kind of, sort of, just a little bit healthy. He’s due to make a very modest $915,000 in 2012, and then $1.55 million in 2013 during the final year of his rookie contract.
Those are both minimal, and very affordable bargain prices for a receiver with Harvin’s dynamic skills. But while money may indeed be the primary motivator, the problem with Harvin goes a little deeper.
He doesn’t just want to get paid, he wants to be traded.
The presumed desire to get paid and his trade request are almost surely connected, with a shiny new paycheck leading to eternal happiness with the Vikings, or at least as long as eternal happiness can last in the NFL (roughly one month). But for now, Harvin wants out and he’s reportedly requested a trade, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press.
The likelihood of Harvin getting what he desires appears to be on the same level as my chances of handing Kate Upton a popsicle. This is a crucial year for Ponder’s development, which is why the Vikings acquired the speedy but not nearly Harvin-speedy Jerome Simpson, but he’ll miss nearly a quarter of the season after sitting out the first three games due to a drug suspension. If they cave to Harvin’s demands, the Vikings will be left with the always lethal combination of Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu as their starting two WRs over those first three games. That, friends, is how you shatter a young quarterback’s confidence, and possibly re-shatter Adrian Peterson’s knee when he plays in a meaningful game for the first time since ACL surgery.
But it’s easy to understand Harvin’s position, and some intriguing numbers from Pro Football Focus made me quickly re-consider what I wrote yesterday.
Harvin indeed has multiple issues. Plural, not singular, and his angst towards his current situation is likely connected to both his paycheck, and his rapidly diminishing role under Leslie Frazier in 2011, his first full year as the Vikings’ head coach.
The latter may be even more concerning to Harvin, because inevitably usage and pay aren’t just two isolated factors in a players’ discontent. When he hits free agency a players’ value is based on his numbers, and all a receiver can do is catch and run with a ball. The ball needs to be thrown in his direction first. Or even more simply, the receiver needs to be on the field, and that’s far out of his control.
Unbelievably, Harvin was on the sideline for nearly half of the Vikings’ offensive snaps in 2011, and that wasn’t because of injuries. Yes, he’s received criticism here and elsewhere for being brittle, but in fairness he’s primarily used as a slot receiver, the most physically demanding alignment for a WR that requires routinely taking pounding over the middle. He played through various injuries and didn’t miss a game in 2011, yet he still saw the field in only 58.8 percent of Minny’s offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
An explosive player whose impact is driven by his speed needs to develop a rhythm, and in Minnesota Harvin often hasn’t had that chance. Despite his lack of usage, Pro Football Focus also notes that Harvin’s been regularly effective and reliable, holding the league’s best catch rate for a receiver in the slot. Harvin caught 79.1 percent of the balls thrown in his direction when he was in the slot. If that doesn’t make you want to become Harvin’s agent and get him the hell out of Minnesota, this is perhaps the most telling PFF stat…
Ponder finished the season with a passer rating of 70.1, and Donovan McNabb was just at 82.9, but on throws targeting Harvin, the pair combined for a QB rating of 97.2.
To review, we’ve now firmly established that Harvin is kind of crucial to the Vikings offense and Ponder’s future, even though he’s inexplicably been underused and is therefore justifiably pissed. But in the unlikely event that Harvin finds another place of employment, there could be another factor that was hidden until earlier this morning.
He’s a manipulative, free-weight throwing dick (reportedly).
Randy Moss: part-time wide receiver by day, full-time vigilante instructor by night.