Technically speaking, Percy Harvin’s career as a Minnesota Viking came to an end on a dreary Sunday afternoon last November in Seattle. It was there, during a 30-20 Vikings loss, that Harvin first directed an explosive sideline tirade at head coach Leslie Frazier, then aggravated a hamstring injury and finally suffered a severe ankle sprain on a routine third-quarter run.
As fate would have it, those would be Harvin’s final moments in his final game with the team.
What started as an extraordinary season for the dynamic receiver took an unexpected turn that day with Harvin’s nerves fraying, his ankle buckling and his overall frustration working toward a point of no return.
Four-and-a-half weeks later, when the explosive receiver was sent to injured reserve, that essentially became his layover on a permanent trip out of town. In a blockbuster deal agreed to Monday, the Vikings dealt Harvin to the Seahawks in exchange for a collection of draft picks.
When the trade is finalized, the Vikings will receive first- and seventh-round selections for this year’s draft plus a third-round pick in 2014. And now Harvin’s still promising career will get a major reset. Back in Seattle.
Officially, the trade cannot be rubber-stamped until 3 p.m. Tuesday when the NFL’s new league year begins and the free agent market opens. Until then, Vikings officials won’t offer public explanation for pulling the trigger. But Monday’s development put a definitive end to an often extraordinary, sometimes tumultuous union.
It also opened a canyon on the Vikings’ depth chart at receiver. With Harvin traded, Michael Jenkins released last week and Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu about to hit free agency, the Vikings now have only two receivers under contract that have caught a pass in an NFL game: Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton.
Still, with approximately $17 million of room under the salary cap, the organization is in position, if General Manager Rick Spielman so desires, to enter a high-priced auction for either Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings, the two premier free agent receivers who will hit the open market Tuesday.
‘Things happened very quickly’
A Harvin trade out of Minnesota had been rumored around the league for weeks. And while Spielman repeatedly asserted he had “no intent” to trade Harvin, the Vikings found themselves wowed by the compensation Seattle brought. As one league source said of Monday’s trade, “Things happened very quickly.”
To be clear, the Vikings hadn’t been entirely desperate to rid themselves of Harvin. Through all of the swings, Frazier had remained one of the receiver’s biggest allies. As patient a head coach as there is in the NFL, Frazier expressed hopes that Harvin would be part of the organization well into the future. It’s a sentiment Frazier said he relayed to the receiver during his January exit physical.
Spielman also proclaimed shortly after last season ended that he had “no issues with Percy Harvin.”
“Everybody sees what Percy puts on the field,” Spielman said. “He plays the game as hard or harder than anyone else in the NFL.”
The league source said the Vikings had few worries that they would be able to meet Harvin’s demands for a contract extension. That, it turns out, was a minimal factor in executing the trade.
Instead, somewhere along the lines a strained relationship became fractured. When Harvin’s ankle troubles persisted and he was put on IR in Week 14, he quickly disappeared from the team’s facility and was nowhere to be found during the team’s four-win blitz into the playoffs.
That was an obvious sign of the receiver’s displeasure. And Harvin had made it known he wanted to move on.
So in addition to the trade package Seattle offered, the Vikings were also running out of patience with constantly trying to keep Harvin happy.
Ultimately, it was decided a divorce would be best to move the organization forward.
Initial news of the Harvin trade rattled not only a large contingent of Vikings fans, many still scarred by the franchise’s 2004 trade of Randy Moss to Oakland, but also league MVP Adrian Peterson, who took to Twitter to vent.