- Ashley Fox
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With one move, Seattle has become the team to beat in the NFC. Not just the NFC West. The entire conference. Percy Harvin makes the Seahawks that good, that relevant and that dangerous.
A couple of hours after news broke Monday that Seattle was trading a first-round pick, among others, to Minnesota for the 24-year-old Harvin, San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke countered by trading a sixth-round pick to Baltimore for veteran receiver Anquan Boldin.
The 32-year-old Boldin makes San Francisco better, but he doesn't give the 49ers the speed they need. And Harvin is younger, faster and more versatile.
Seattle general manager John Schneider sent a message to the conference and the entire league that the Seahawks are going to be major players in 2013, no matter what else transpires once free agency starts Tuesday afternoon. They have their quarterback, a creative offense, a workhorse running back and now one of the most difficult players in the league to defend. All the Seahawks really need on defense is a skilled pass-rusher who can help close out games. They've got the league's best secondary and were the No. 1 defense in points allowed last season. They are very close.
With all due respect to the Atlanta Falcons and the Niners, no NFC team will be a bigger matchup nightmare than Seattle with Harvin and Russell Wilson. The read option was already a pain in the neck to defend, and Harvin will add another dimension because defenses will have to account for his whereabouts every snap. Is he in the slot? Is he split wide? Is he in the backfield?
Lose him, and Harvin will make you pay.
Last season, as Wilson became more comfortable with being a rookie starter and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell opened up the playbook, Seattle grew into a virtually unstoppable offense. From Week 13 on, the Seahawks led the league in point margin with 133 points (Denver was second with 95) and turnover differential (plus-11). They were second to New Orleans with 2,126 total yards. In a three-week span, they put up 58 points against Arizona, 50 against Buffalo and 42 against San Francisco. And they won their last five regular-season games.
In the playoffs, Seattle won at Washington. Had Pete Carroll managed the clock better in the divisional round, the Seahawks would have won in Atlanta to go to the NFC Championship Game and face a San Francisco team they had hammered in Week 16 at home.
Down the stretch, Wilson proved he could win not only with his legs but also with his arm, and he did it with two average receivers in Sidney Rice and Golden Tate. Harvin gives Seattle a clear No. 1 receiver who is capable of getting huge chunks of yards at a time. As impressive as Adrian Peterson was in 2012, at the midpoint of last season Harvin was the Viking people talked about as an MVP candidate. Through nine games, he was on pace for 110 catches and over 1,200 receiving yards and was averaging 35.9 yards per kickoff return.
There's no reason to think Harvin won't have that type of production for Seattle this season.
This move will work for Seattle. Harvin will not be a problem. He has complained about his contract for the last year and has a history of otherwise being high maintenance, but by the time he puts on the pads in Seattle, he will have a new contract that should pay him like the elite, special threat that he is.
Harvin will join a team that has a rock-solid quarterback in Wilson, who, in addition to being a dynamic player in his own right, is mature beyond his 24 years. Wilson is a leader on the field and off. He is a unifier, and because of his freakish athleticism and playmaking ability, Wilson's teammates play for him. He got the most out of Rice and Tate last year. Harvin won't have a negative thing to say about his new quarterback because, No. 1, no one does, and, No. 2, his new teammates won't allow it.
In Bevell, the offensive coordinator in Minnesota for Harvin's first two years in the league, Harvin will hear a familiar voice. Bevell knows exactly what Harvin can do, how to motivate him and how to use him in a way that best exhibits his talents to help the team. That connection will help.
And Seattle has quietly become a safe landing spot for players and a favorite destination. The stadium and game-day atmosphere help -- Seattle is arguably the hardest place to play for visiting teams -- but Carroll is the ultimate players' coach. He has taken players with various red flags, either for their attitude or their performance, and made them productive. He did that most recently for Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 1,590 yards last season, and Chris Clemons, who at age 31 finished with 11.5 sacks before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the playoffs on that horrible field at Washington.
So Harvin will work. He will be happy. And he will make the Seahawks the most dangerous team in the NFC.
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