Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Percy Harvin's time as a Viking has come to end. According to an NFL source, the Vikings have agreed in principle to a trade with Seattle, formally ending a rocky relationship with their ultra-talented yet mercurial receiver.
The NFL's free agency period will open at 3 p.m. Tuesday, which is also the opening of the new league year. That's the earliest a trade could be rubber-stamped and completed. But as of right now, the deal has been finalized and Harvin will simply have to pass a team physical in Seattle.
A Harvin trade has been rumored for more than a month. And while Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman repeatedly asserted that he had "no intent" to trade Harvin, the Vikings also had begun to run out of patience with trying to make Harvin happy. The moody receiver had pushed the team to deal him after his 2012 season ended with tension.
Harvin played his last game in a Week 9 loss to Seattle in early-November but suffered a severe ankle sprain in the second half of that game. He tried to come back from the injury but was unsuccessful in doing so and was put on injured reserve in Week 14, ending his season.
If the trade to Seattle doesn't hit any unforeseen snags and is indeed finalized, Harvin would reunite with Darrell Bevell, the Seahawks' offensive coordinator who held the same position with the Vikings during Harvin's first two seasons. Harvin would also join forced with Pete Carroll, who in his previous post at the University of Southern Cal, had recruited Harvin out of Landstown High School in Virginia.
Stay tuned for additional details as this story develops ...
If only the Internet had come around sooner. If only the popularity of blogs had exploded in the late 1980s so that by the time I got to Lincoln Jr. High in Park Ridge, Ill., in the fall of ‘89 I could have started a site called, say, “JuniorHighChatter.com.”
It would have been perfect, a hub for all the truth mixed with rumor mixed with gossip mixed with analysis that keeps people energized.
(According to a source close to the lunchroom, naturally.)
You’d click on those stories, right? Truths, half-truths, wild speculation.
Who really cares? So long as they are tied to a source and make for interesting conversation and debate, right?
Which brings us to the latest development in the wacky Percy Harvin saga. According to a story published late Thursday by Yahoo! Sports, Harvin almost walked out on the Vikings in late August. Reportedly.
He was apparently upset that New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez – a former teammate at Florida – had his contract reworked and enhanced after just two seasons in the league. According to the story, that infuriated Harvin. Reportedly to the point that he again threatened the Vikings to take better care of him or else.
So what we have now is a story that’s difficult to verify yet can’t really be disproven. After all, it’s difficult to pin down for certain whether Harvin’s threat really occurred? And if it did, was it the equivalent of an 8-year-old threatening to run away because he didn’t get ice cream after dinner? Or more was it more pronounced and legitimate than that?
Overall, what the latest batch of Harvin chatter has confirmed is that this situation needs resolution sooner than later. If only to keep the carousel of vague, anonymous-sourced reports from mushrooming further and overcrowding the NFL offseason’s hyperventilation chamber.
This isn’t to say Harvin hasn’t ever been a headache for the Vikings. He has. And we can all acknowledge that the 24-year-old receiver is often moody, has a fiery temper and occasionally lets his petulance steal the spotlight away from his tremendous football talent. There’s documented evidence of all that from his high school days in Virginia to his college career at Florida to his time with the Vikings.
But it’s also wise to process all Harvin stories at this stage of the NFL calendar with some deeper thought. Why, for example, would Harvin’s threat to leave the team seven months ago just now be surfacing – coincidentally at a point in the year where potential trade talks for the receiver might be heating up?
Might the source who relayed this information have an agenda to push, trying to manipulate the Harvin story arc in a way most beneficial to his/her cause?
If the Vikings are seeking to trade Harvin, it’s a deal they might want to complete before the free agent market opens Tuesday. So why would they leak information to the media that Harvin is an anxious malcontent who’s apparently seeking a mega-bucks contract in line with the eight-year, $132 deal that Detroit’s Calvin Johnson finalized last year?
Wouldn’t information like that significantly hurt Harvin’s trade value?
So then is it possible the source of these claims is with another team deliberately attempting to drive down that trade value?
To make things even more complicated, other conspiracy theorists suggest that maybe it is indeed the Vikings leaking the anti-Harvin sentiments, trying to scare away potential trade suitors, preferring instead to keep the receiver around for the final year of his deal. After all, the root of this drama seems to begin more with Harvin wanting out of Minnesota than with the Vikings wanting to get rid of him.
Furthermore, the timeline of Harvin’s alleged blow-up over Hernandez’s contract doesn’t make a ton of sense. Yes, he had a highly-publicized tantrum during the team’s mini-camp last June, requesting a trade. But Harvin quickly came down off that demand, reported to training camp on time a month later and wasn’t a problem at all during the team’s three-week stay in Mankato.
When Hernandez got his contract extension on Aug. 27, the Vikings were deep into the preseason preparing for their final preseason game in Houston and Harvin had worked himself into position to deliver the best stretch of his career at the start of the 2012 regular season.
Over the first eight games, he caught 60 passes for 667 yards. He scored touchdowns as a receiver, as a running back and as a kick returner. He was lauded as an MVP frontrunner and showed few signs of being a locker room stressor.
Especially with the Vikings off to a surprising 5-3 start.
But now? What’s next? Who knows?
Publicly, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has carefully stated he has “no intent” on trading Percy Harvin. Though Spielman has never gone on record to say that he won’t make such a trade.
Publicly, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier has stated that he remains a big fan of Harvin and has expressed to the star receiver that he wants him back around.
Publicly, Harvin has said nothing. He hasn’t spoken to reporters since Nov. 21. That was in the locker room at Winter Park, 17 days after he had severely sprained his ankle in a Week 9 loss in Seattle. Harvin said that afternoon he was making good progress with his ankle rehabilitation and would definitely be back at practice.
He wasn’t able to make good on that vow. Not that day. And not for the team’s next six practices either.
Harvin was put on injured reserve Dec. 5. And with that, poof! He vanished from the team’s facility for the rest of the season and hasn’t been heard from since. The strange dynamic of the whole situation, of the I.R. decision, of Harvin’s separation from his teammates during an inspired late-season run has done nothing but create confusion. Harvin’s own silence exacerbates the mystery.
For now, the developments in this drama seemingly exist in a vacuum. And attempts to connect the dots have only surfaced through periodic reports that are themselves difficult to decipher or verify.
Last month, when pressed to provide a little more clarity to the altogether iffy status of receiver Percy Harvin, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman skillfully shuffled around a definitive explanation on the matter and instead advised a room of reporters to sift through all the rumor and conjecture that has circulated with great caution.
“I would just say don’t believe all the half-truths or the rumors or the no-truths that are out there,” Spielman warned. “Because there is so much stuff that flies around. … It’s great reading.”
Yep, rumor and half-truth often does make for great reading. And this is the world sites such as ProFootballTalk.com thrives and preys on.
Thing is, Spielman’s advice doesn’t only apply to the future of Harvin with the Vikings. It applies to pretty much all things NFL. And it’s especially important to remember as the league machine tries to suck you into its upcoming free agency frenzy this weekend.
Here’s your quick summary of the timeline:
Here’s our shout-out to Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe, who has provided the perfect synopsis for what’s about to go down in league circles over the weekend. Do yourself a favor and read the entire piece.
But as Bedard puts it:
Agents with top-of-the-market players about to cash in … are under a lot of pressure, not only to boost their own commission, but to deliver that huge contract they’ve been promising their client. There is a desperation involved, especially if the market isn’t hot to start. So if an agent thinks that lying to a media member will boost his client’s contract, you better believe he’s going to do that.
So prepare yourself for breathless reports about how such and such team is in the lead but three other teams are expected to get into the bidding. And it will go on all the way until Tuesday.
And it’s exactly what the NFL wants — not the teams, the league office. This negotiation period is purely artificial, to boost the spotlight on the league during a slow period in the sports calendar. The NFL thinks this will cause more media to write or talk about the league and it desires that attention. And you better believe those outlets that measure success purely by clicks will be beating the drums right along with the league.
Over the weekend and into next week, it will be very important to keep your filter operating and the knob on your “B.S. Detector” turned to high.
Don’t get us wrong. Big things will happen. Notable players like Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings, Cliff Avril and Jake Long will sign new contracts, probably with new teams.
And there will be significant news to report and dissect and analyze. But with that will a flood of nonsense and incessant noise will break through the dam. Agents will leak half-truths. Teams won’t respond. Fact and fiction will frolic together and scrap like Harry and Mary in “Dumb and Dumber.”
If you enjoy that kind of silliness, we’d suggest spending the entire weekend glued to Twitter, the NFL Network and ESPN. Speculation will be everywhere. Just remember to process it as just that. The take a deep breath, allow deals to be finalized and realize that the first regular season game of 2013 is still half-a-year away.
We can confirm ESPN’s Adam Schefter's report that the Vikings have released veteran Michael Jenkins, the first domino to fall in an offseason during which the organization is expected to overhaul its receiving corps.
Jenkins spent two seasons with the Vikings, totaling 78 catches, 915 yards and five touchdowns. He was well-liked within the locker room and often praised by receivers coach George Stewart, who nicknamed Jenkins “The Professor” due to his understanding of the offense and overall professionalism.
But after nine seasons in the league, Jenkins is little more than a complementary part. He will turn 31 years old in June. And had the Vikings kept him on their roster past March 16, they would have owed him a roster bonus of more than $2.4 million.
From a business standpoint, releasing the veteran was the only move that made sense. Jenkins had accepted a pay cut during training camp last summer that took his 2012 salary from $2.5 million down to $1 million. That move allowed him to stick on the roster for one more year. But on Monday the Vikings stopped delaying the inevitable.
Jenkins’ two seasons with the Vikings produced few highlight reel moments. Thought it should be noted that he was on the receiving end of Christian Ponder’s first completion as a starter in 2011, a 72-yard connection against the Packers. Jenkins also scored the Vikings’ final two touchdowns this past season. He hauled in a 3-yard grab from Ponder in Week 17, fueling a 37-34 win over the Packers in the regular season finale. He also had a 50-yard score from Joe Webb in the team’s playoff loss to Green Bay at Lambeau Field.
With Jenkins now released, the void at receiver becomes more pronounced.
Percy Harvin had a team-best 62 catches for 677 yards and three scores last season despite playing only nine games. But Harvin’s future with the team remains somewhat iffy as rumors have circulated for the past month that he may be traded. Furthermore, Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu are both eligible to hit free agency next week. Which leaves Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton as the only two receivers from last season who seem certain to be with the team when training camp opens in Mankato this summer.
Greg Childs, a fourth-round draft pick last year, spent all of the 2012 season on injured reserve and is still attempting a comeback after rupturing the patella tendons in both knees during training camp.
Only 58 days remain until the NFL Draft begins.
So for the next eight-and-a-half weeks, we're going to hear a lot of analysis on what the Vikings will need to do. At present, everyone's on the same page that the Vikings' receiving corps needs help. Earlier today, we offered you 12 potential targets for the team.
Now, it's time to turn the floor over to NFL analysts Charles Davis and Brian Billick.
Billick, the former Vikings' offensive coordinator, offered this take on where the offense stands:
"I think it's time to start holding Christian Ponder accountable. But only if they give him the proper weapons. Percy Harvin is a heck of a weapon. And when he was healthy, he was a great way to go. They don't have that big shot down the field. They were hoping Jerome Simpson could be that. They don't have that. That's got to be a top priority. For me, I've got to come out with a big play weapon down the field."
For all of what Billick and Davis had to say, watch this:
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