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Monday, March 11, 2013
Percy Harvin: Got to be more to story

By Kevin Seifert

Percy Harvin
What happened in Minnesota for the Vikings to be so willing to trade away an asset like Percy Harvin?
There was a time when prevailing wisdom suggested the Minnesota Vikings would struggle to get a second-round draft choice in return for trading receiver Percy Harvin. As the thinking went, Harvin's reputation as a high-maintenance personality and the need to satisfy his financial demands would drive down his trade value.

So under the circumstances, you could say the Vikings did well Monday to extract a first-rounder -- plus two other picks -- from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for Harvin.

Under the circumstances…

Under the circumstances…

Under the circumstances…

Frankly, the depth of those circumstances will determine whether the Vikings made the right decision Monday. Make no mistake: They shipped out one of the NFL's most dynamic playmakers a few months shy of his 25th birthday, leaving themselves as short on offensive firepower as any team in the league. They received a nice kitty in return but certainly not one that guarantees a replacement of his skills.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, that has been reported about Harvin's eccentric off-field behavior -- his dust-ups with both Vikings head coaches he has played for and his decision to rehabilitate his sprained ankle elsewhere last season, among others -- merits this move. And I truly doubt that the Vikings -- who have spent nearly $1 billion on player salaries in the tenure of owner Zygi Wilf -- made this decision based on finances. Over time, Wilf has been more than willing to reward the Vikings' core players. If Harvin made exorbitant contract demands, such as a deal close to the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson, it could only have been to accelerate his departure. We'll know for sure when we get the numbers on his deal with the Seahawks.

There is only one explanation here that makes sense: What we've heard about Harvin is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If NFL teams gave up on every superstar, blue-chip player who argued with coaches and exhibited diva-like tendencies, well, you would see a lot more Percy Harvin's being traded and/or released. Instead, teams almost always accept those negatives because they are outweighed by the positive of his on-field production.

The Vikings had the NFL's least-explosive passing game last season and are desperate for more, not less, talent at the position. Every rational football thought suggested the Vikings should find a way to make it work with him. Dealing with high-maintenance players, especially ones with a career horizon as long as Harvin's, is part of successful NFL team building.

So what happened? We can only be left to assume the Vikings found him not just high-maintenance and not simply a diva. They would have had to arrive at a much more dire conclusion than that. I don't expect them to ever reveal their true reasoning, but to justify it internally, the Vikings would have had to conclude Harvin was an incorrigibly lost cause who was hell-bent on disrupting the franchise until it finally granted him leave.

What evidence did they have to support that theory? Did Harvin tell them he would hold out until for the first 10 games, the maximum a player can sit out without losing credit for a full accrued season? Possibly. Had he displayed rarely-seen behavioral tendencies, even based on NFL standards? Perhaps.

To be sure, there have always been whispers of suspicion about the ways Harvin conducted himself. Former coach Brad Childress openly questioned how serious Harvin's ongoing migraine headaches were in 2009 and 2010. There was a very odd and only partially-explained absence from training camp in 2010, which Harvin first attributed to a family member's death and later to migraines.

There were reports of a confrontation with Childress in 2010 and Frazier last season. Many of us wondered why Harvin couldn't play after spraining his ankle last season against, ironically, the Seahawks. We thought it was interesting, if nothing else, that Harvin never rejoined the team after being placed on injured reserve.

For me to accept this trade as smart, I have to assume the Vikings found malicious and deliberate intent in most of what they publicly explained as coincidental when it came to Harvin's dramas. And I have to think there were further words or actions -- or both -- in the past few months that cemented those feelings. The Vikings were smart to keep those misgivings to themselves, and the protection of their presumed grievances helped generate the return they got in Monday's trade.

I've presented that theory Monday afternoon to a number of people I trust who would have better insight than me. They all considered it the understatement of the year, in the paraphrased words of one.

If that's the case, then caveat emptor for the Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll. While the Seahawks seem better equipped to make Harvin happy at the moment, given the presence of quarterback Russell Wilson and their apparent willingness to meet his contract demands, their situation might not always be so rosy. The Vikings have experienced Harvin's reaction to adversity -- real or imagined -- and you saw Monday what they did about it.

It would take an extraordinary litany of confrontations, altercations and mistrust to make a player like Percy Harvin a net negative and thus expendable. The Vikings did well to get what they did for him, but if this was addition by subtraction, well, that's a lot of negatives.