At the time the Minnesota Vikings drafted wide receiver Percy Harvin 22nd overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, I immediately thought that the team blew the pick. He was clearly one of the most talented offensive players available that year after a productive collegiate career at Florida as an all-purpose weapon, but a positive test for marijuana at the NFL Combine led to his fall in the first round. In fact, many teams took him completely off their draft board after the positive test.
I look at a positive drug test for any player as a reflection of two possibilities, pure stupidity or addiction. Players know they will be subject to drug testing at what is essentially their job interview for the NFL, and Harvin clearly had a lot at stake as a potential top-10 overall pick. Who would be ignorant enough to risk their future over even the possibility of a positive test? Suffice to say Harvin was off on the wrong foot with me as a Vikings’ follower, regardless of his talent level.
Despite a stellar rookie season that led to his being named Offensive Rookie of the Year, Harvin did not bolster my faith in him. Repeated issues with migraine headaches that let to plenty of missed practices and one missed game almost negated his positive contribution in my mind. I don’t mean to minimize the impact severe migraine headaches can have on people, but it was an issue Harvin and his doctors needed to address if his career was to continue on a positive track.
Let’s fast forward to June 2012, when Harvin showed up at Vikings’ minicamp and reportedly asked to be traded. He blew it off the next day as a story the local media had trumped up, though multiple sources had directly quoted him as saying he had “some issues” that needed to be resolved.
All seemed to be forgotten after that point, as Harvin had no issues during training camp and had a productive start to the season with 62 receptions for 677 yards over the first nine games. He suffered a left ankle injury in that ninth game, on the road against the Seattle Seahawks, and was seen by TV cameras yelling at head coach Leslie Frazier on the sideline prior to being injured.
Harvin missed the next three games with the ankle issue, and with an apparent lack of progress in his rehab was placed on season-ending injured reserve on December 5. A recent report from Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN-Twin Cities suggests he and Frazier had another “heated exchange” that may have expedited the process of Harvin being declared out for the rest of the season. Having continued issues with Frazier, widely considered one of the most mild-mannered head coaches in the league, is another big black mark for Harvin in my book.
Let’s not forget that 2013 is the final season of Harvin’s rookie contract, and he is due to make just over $1.5 million. That is certainly a bargain rate for a player of his talent and productivity when he’s on the field, and making a decision on a contract extension for him is one of the most pressing issues facing the Vikings this coming offseason.
It goes without saying Harvin will threaten, and likely follow through on, a holdout if his contract status is not resolved prior to the starting of training camp next summer. Anything less would be against his character, even if an argument can be made that he deserves a healthy increase in salary.
As much as I am clearly not a “Percy Harvin guy”, it would be difficult for the Vikings to get fair value for him if they seriously entertain the possibility of trading him before next season. His history of issues with coaches, dating back to his college career and with former Vikings’ head coach Brad Childress, is likely to effect how many teams would be interested in him. To say nothing of how much a team with a well-regarded power structure would be willing to give up to add a player that, while clearly very talented, may do nothing but cause issues behind the scenes.
I think the Vikings would be best served to hang on to Harvin through the coming offseason and do their best to resolve his contract situation in a manner that is suitable to both sides. Maybe a change in offensive coordinator from Bill Musgrave would pacify him, but it’s ultimately unclear what exactly would make him happy. For now, Harvin is simply a headache the Vikings have to deal with.