After reports surfaced that Percy Harvin was not seeing eye-to-eye with the coaching staff in Minnesota, it was logical to assume that the Vikings would end up dealing him. Despite their illogical post-season appearance that came about because of one the greatest seasons ever by Adrian Peterson, Minnesota is a team in a rebuilding mode and they didn’t have any reason to ink a disgruntled wide receiver to a long-term contract extension, especially when their quarterback often struggles to throw the ball.
Thus, a blockbuster deal was born today between the Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks, who seem to be stockpiling former Vikings receivers. In exchange for Harvin, the Seahawks are sending the 25th overall pick in this year’s draft, their seventh round pick for 2013 and a conditional mid-round pick for next year’s draft. The deal is contingent on Harvin signing a new deal with Seattle, but that is expected to happen within the next 48 hours.
That is quite the ransom for an injury prone wide receiver that only played in nine games last season, and yet I find myself agreeing with the deal for both sides.
Minnesota got out great, here, exchanging a player that didn’t want to be there for a tremendous package of assets. The Vikings save future money by dealing Harvin prior to his extension and the move helps to move along the demolition of their receiving core. In addition to dealing Harvin, Michael Jenkings, Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu are all going to be free agents, which leaves Jarius Wright as their number one option pre-free agency and draft.
I think Seattle also made a good move here, even if it cost them a lot. Russell Wilson revolutionized the Seahawks’ offense last season, but there was a lack of any dynamic weapons around him. Their scheme was mostly predicated on Marshawn Lynch being the league’s best downhill runner, Wilson executing the read-option and the play-action game getting receivers open down field. There was some potent passing mixed in here and there, but, for the most part, Wilson’s receivers were not game changing threats, particularly after they caught the ball.
Harvin changes all of that, as he’s one of the most dynamic receivers in the league.
It makes sense for Harvin’s primary role with the Seahawks to be as a slot receiver. 156 of Harvin’s 261 routes (59.8%) last season came from the slot, and he caught 74.3% of his targets when he was in the slot. Because you can’t jam slot receivers, Harvin starts out every play with an advantage on the defense as has an undeterred path to space. When Harvin gets into the open field, he’s a terror to stop; he led the league in yards after the catch per reception last season at 8.7 YAC/Rec. On top of his situational stats, Harvin was as sure-handed as anyone in the league last season, dropping just one pass in 81 targets.
The Seahawks only had 62 receptions from all of the receivers they put in the slot last season. To put that in perspective, Randall Cobb had 63 receptions from the slow by himself last season. Harvin will fix all of these issues as he is a substantial upgrade over Golden Tate, who was Seattle’s best slot man last season.
Even though they didn’t utilize their slot receivers often, Seattle did run one of Harvin’s favorite plays – against the Vikings, no less – for Tate that caught my eye when watching film.
Here the Seahawks are in a four receiver alignment with trips to the right. Sidney Rice is lined up on the line of scrimmage, putting Tate a couple of yards back off the line. Tate is going to run a simply bubble screen with Rice and Baldwin going downfield to block.
Against a zone blitz, there is a ton of room to work for Tate on the right side of the field, and though it takes him a bit of time, he gets into the endzone with the help of his fellow wide receivers.
Bubble screens accounted for a large portion of Harvin’s offense last season, mostly because three yard throws were the only thing Christian Ponder could make consistently. There are all sorts of possibilities for Harvin as a slot receiver, including allowing him to bust through the seams for big plays.
Take a look here at how the Vikings motion him inside the numbers to give him a close release against the Redskins.
Harvin has DeAngelo Hall on him in single coverage on this play and his goal is to use the middle of the field to create separation from Hall and to open a throwing window for Ponder.
The insider release gives Harvin a built in advantage on Hall for his trek across the field, and the zone help from the linebacker won’t matter once he crosses the middle of the field. This is one of the few times Minnesota was able to get a big play with Harvin going deep, but with Wilson as his QB now, you can expect a few more deep passes to find their way to Harvin.
I think Seattle can also put Harvin on the outside as the lone receiver in some of the power run formations and get expect him to make plays, especially out of play-action.
Here is Harvin working against Hall again. He’ll be running a deep post route here against a single high look.
Harvin runs a good route, selling a go until the last second when he makes a good plant and gets Hall, who was horrible in coverage last season, out of position. Wit the safety gaining a little too much depth in his dropback, Harvin creates a window for Ponder to make the throw with a great break towards the middle.
As a receiver, Harvin will make the Seattle offense a lot more dangerous, but that’s not even the part of Harvin’s game that will put the most fear into opposing defensive coordinators. What Harvin can do in Seattle’s read-option game is going to make this trade worthwhile, in my opinion, because he’s such an incredibly shifty player with great field vision and the option can put him into the open field a ton, which is a recipe for success for Seattle.
Harvin has experience with the spread option already, too, having run it with Tim Tebow at Florida, so he’ll be somewhat familiar with the offense the second he arrives at mini-camp. Whether Seattle puts Harvin in the backfield with Wilson to act as a change of pace for Lynch, mixes the two by going with a two back formation and running the read-option with Lynch and Harvin acting as the pitch man, or even pulls Harvin from the slot for some pitch plays, opponents are going to have to make impossible choices when it comes to containing their ground attack.
So, the Seahawks have a dynamic quarterback, multiple variations of the option and play in a city where it rains everyday? This is the team Chip Kelly was born to coach!
The value of picks in the NFL has risen exponentially with the new rookie salary rules, so it is tough to give up three picks for a player that has had health problems dating back to his college days. But I truly believe that Harvin is a big enough of a game changer to make it worth it. His health is concerning, but that is the only reason this deal isn’t a total slam dunk. If Harvin can stay on the field for the majority of the next five seasons, Seattle will have one of the best offenses in football, bar none.