Posted June 20, 2012

Huddle Up: Percy Harvin, Vikings may be stuck with each other

Minnesota Vikings

Percy Harvin had a career year in 2012, despite limited playing time and substandard quarterback play. (Getty Images)

Throughout the NFL’s lengthy offseason, “Huddle Up” will provide you with a quick take on an important story or development from around the league …

Percy Harvin was cryptic at best on Tuesday when he expressed some general frustration with the Vikings: “I just put it this way,” he said. “There’s a lot of different things that have to be sorted out. Just haven’t been really happy lately.”

We found out just how unhappy Harvin is Wednesday. The moody and talented fourth-year receiver has requested a trade, as first reported by 1500ESPN’s Tom Pelissero and confirmed by the Associated Press.

Minnesota now has to figure out how much longer it wants to deal with the Harvin headache.

The Vikings knew that Harvin was a gamble when they selected him in 2009, just weeks after Harvin failed a drug test at the NFL scouting combine. Since then, there has been a long list of public and not-so-public head-butting between Harvin and the team, a situation that the reacquisition of Randy Moss reportedly did not help — according to Pelissero, Moss and Harvin “remained in daily contact” after Moss was waived, and Moss “repeatedly told Harvin he needed to get Childress fired.”

At the heart of this current tiff, as is so often the case, appears to be financial matters. Harvin has two years left on his rookie contract and, despite being one of the NFL’s more dynamic offensive players, would earn a base salary of just $915,000 in 2012.

But the issues may run deeper than that. Harvin has grown more and more frustrated with his playing time in Minnesota, even as migraines and a shoulder injury limited him last season (he still played all 16 games for the first time in his career).

Harvin has a beef there. He finished with 87 catches and 967 yards receiving last season, more than double the next best marks on the team. Harvin also carried the football 52 times for 345 yards, helping ease the load after Adrian Peterson tore his ACL. Still, Harvin was on the field for less than 60 percent of Minnesota’s snaps — 621 plays, according to Pro Football Focus, or 63 fewer than Devin Aromashadu.

Long story short, there is an unending list of problems to fix here: money, injury issues, in-house strife, playing time …

And here’s the biggest challenge for the Vikings: They absolutely cannot afford to trade Harvin.

A quick scan of the Minnesota roster reveals a team fully in rebuilding mode, with a rehabbing Peterson at running back, unproven Christian Ponder at QB, and a whole lot of question marks aside from Harvin. The Vikings’ newest wide receiver addition, Jerome Simpson, has a very high ceiling but problems of his own, namely a three-game suspension to start 2012.

Behind Harvin and Simpson, the depth chart at WR shows Aromashadu, Michael Jenkins, fourth-round draft picks Greg Childs and Jairus Wright, and a host of unknown quantities.

The Vikings rolled the dice on Harvin at the 2009 draft because they did not want to pass on his exceptional talent. Things have not changed a lot, in that regard, over the past three seasons.

What happens if Minnesota trades Harvin? Well, it would further set back a team that’s already struggling to keep pace in the NFC North.

This situation has become such a mess that both sides have somehow lost their leverage. The Vikings would not get anywhere close to fair market value in a trade, given Harvin’s clashes with management and lingering concerns about his health, not to mention the teams’ reluctance to part with draft picks nearly a full year before the actual draft; Harvin can only hold out for so long, if he wants to play enough games to accrue a season toward free agency.

Minnesota might be able to brush all of this under the rug by handing Harvin a huge new contract and promising to get him on the field more.

There does not seem to be much holding Harvin back from seeing more action, honestly — even though he was banged-up in 2011, he still played through those ailments and produced. But any concerns the Vikings had over offering Harvin a new contract have likely only intensified during this contentious offseason.

So, we’re left with a good, old-fashioned NFL standoff. As for the immediate future, the safe bet is for more of the same in Minnesota: Harvin frustrated with his contract and playing time, and the Vikings wary of paying big bucks for a troublesome player.

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