Oct 21, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (12) against the Arizona Cardinals at the Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the Cardinals 21-14. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Seahawks Could Afford to Gamble On Percy Harvin, Vikings Could Not

Percy Harvin is gone to Seattle in exchange for a package of draft picks including this year’s 25th overall selection. Early analysis suggests Rick Spielman did well to get those picks, considering all the uncertainty around Harvin. Were the Vikings ever going to be able to extend Harvin? Was he interested in coming back to the team at any price given his issues with the QB and coaches? Would they have had to overpay to keep Harvin happy? How would overpaying Harvin have affected their free agent strategy?

Ultimately there were too many questions, too many uncertainties. Spielman decided to part ways with Harvin and get what he could get while the market was still hot. At least right now, turning the headache of Harvin into three picks looks like a very shrewd move by Spielman. It helps set the Vikings up for the future. And that’s what Spielman is all about. Getting the team in the right place to have long-term success. Sure some veterans will gripe, but so what? Spielman can’t worry about that. He has to do what he thinks is best for the team in the long-run.

It all boils down to one simple fact: the Vikings were in no position to gamble on Percy Harvin. That became even more clear when the contract numbers for Harvin began circulating. It’s now reported that Harvin will receive $67 million over six years from the Seahawks. That’s likely what the Vikings would’ve had to pay to keep Harvin off the market at the end of 2013. And that’s too much money for this team to spend on a guy like Harvin.

You could argue that’s too much money for Seattle too, or any team for that matter. $67 million over six years for a guy who isn’t even a true #1? Granted he brings certain extra value. He is a great return man too and can be used as a back out of the backfield. And no one questions his heart and toughness. But still, $67 million over six years for a receiver not named Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald? Seattle looks a little bit nuts for making that move. Considering that it also cost them three draft picks.

But Seattle believes they are in the right position to take this big chance on Harvin. They can take the gamble that the Vikings did not believe they could take. Is this simply a matter of organizational philosophy? Does it all boil down to Pete Carroll’s risk-taking personality vs. Rick Spielman’s relatively conservative approach? Maybe. But I think it has less to do with general approach and more to do with the specific circumstances of each organization right now. Quite frankly, I think it boils down to the quarterbacks.

Look at it from the Vikings’ point-of-view. Yes there were uncertainties surrounding Percy Harvin. Health-related uncertainties and attitude-related uncertainties. But the real uncertainty with the Vikings is the man behind center. Christian Ponder still hasn’t fully proven himself. There is still a ton of doubt about whether he can be the guy. The Vikings I believe have tacitly acknowledged this with their quick move to deal Harvin. I believe that, if the Vikings had faith in Ponder, they would’ve made a push to re-sign Harvin. They would’ve been more willing to give him the money he is apparently worth on the market.

But the fact is the Vikings do not have faith in Ponder. This puts them in a very uncertain position. They don’t know if they will have a QB beyond 2013. Ponder may prove himself this year or he may struggle and force them to move on. But what will they do if Ponder isn’t the man? Draft a QB in 2014? What if they can’t find an Andrew Luck, a guy they can just plug in? That means another two- or three-year project. And what if they can’t find a free agent to come in and hold down the fort until a young guy can develop? If Ponder flops this year, the Vikes’ QB situation could be in limbo for at least another year or two after that.

So ask yourself the question: how can an organization justify giving $12 million-per-year to a receiver when they’re not certain they even have a QB? That would be recklessly-spent money. Better to spend that money on defensive help. Add multiple lower-cost receiving weapons and try to make life as easy as possible for Ponder who has obvious limitations as a passer.

Put simply, it would’ve made no sense for the Vikings to gamble on Harvin at that price. It would’ve been a bad gamble. Seattle on the other hand can roll those dice. They can take the chance on Harvin at that arguably inflated price because their QB situation is not as uncertain as the Vikings’. They know what they have in Russell Wilson. They know Wilson can get it done on the field. He can get far more out of Harvin than Ponder likely would have, making it much easier to justify the price tag. And they know he has the leadership and moxy to not be rattled by Percy’s bullcrap.

The Percy-Ponder marriage was simply never going to work, for multiple reasons. Percy didn’t like Ponder as a player. And the Vikings surely realize that Ponder has a lot of questions left to answer before he’s worthy of being considered a franchise QB. A team in that position can’t give a receiver like Harvin that big money. Wilson’s presence gives Seattle the confidence to take that gamble.

It may still blow up in Seattle’s face, but if you’re a fan of Seattle right now, you’re not worried. You feel pretty good about where your team is. You know the team is all-in. You know they’re built to make a run this year and for the next few years. They have a potentially great QB. And they’ve surrounded that guy with multiple great weapons. And they have a defense and a top-notch coach.

Viking fans wish they could be that sure about their team, but they simply can’t. They have too many concerns. And Rick Spielman has tacitly acknowledged the legitimacy of these concerns. By trading Harvin without making any real effort to re-sign him, he’s acknowledged that he’s not sure about Ponder. By not extending Leslie Frazier, he’s acknowledged that he’s not sure about the coaching situation. He’s hedging his bets. He’s once again putting the present in a holding pattern and placing all his faith in the long-term plan. Now we see if Spielman really has the ability to make this pay off. If he drafts well and works his free agent plan shrewdly, it will ultimately work out. If not, he’ll be gone and someone else will be in. And we’ll still be here bitching.

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