Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
In other news …
Yes, yes, we know. All other Vikings news is incredibly minor today in the wake of the Percy Harvin trade, a blockbuster deal that has triggered widespread reaction. But there is other business to tend to. So, a few notables to put on the table …
-- The Vikings have put the low tender on cornerback A.J. Jefferson, the team’s only restricted free agent. With free agency officially set to open Tuesday at 3 p.m., the move puts the Vikings in position to pay Jefferson $1.323 million for 2013 while also giving the team the right to match any other offer Jefferson gets from another organization. If Jefferson is given an offer from another team that the Vikings don’t choose to match, they will not be awarded draft compensation. The 24-year-old cornerback came to the Vikings through a trade with Arizona just before the start of the regular season last summer. He wound up starting seven games, taking on a heightened role after Chris Cook broke his wrist in Week 8.
-- The Vikings have 10 unrestricted free agents due to hit the open market on Tuesday. They are right tackle Phil Loadholt, fullback Jerome Felton, linebackers Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson and Marvin Mitchell, safety Jamarca Sanford, receivers Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu and offensive linemen Geoff Schwartz and Joe Berger. Here was our weekend projections on how all of those situations might play out. We’re told the Vikings have heavy interest in bringing Simpson back into the fold for a second season. And the needs at receiver just got a little more dire with the Harvin deal. Simpson has attracted interest from multiple other teams and will have a decision to make. We’re expecting Jerome Felton back as well, though it will be interesting to see if he ultimately makes a cash grab and rewards the highest bidder for his services or if, as expected, he truly values the situation he has found in Minnesota in a run-first, fullback-reliant offense that features league MVP Adrian Peterson.
Well, all that Percy Harvin speculation came to a head in a big way Monday with the Vikings pulling the trigger on a trade and sending the dynamic 24-year-old receiver to Seattle in exchange for three draft picks: a first-rounder and a seventh-rounder this year and a third-rounder in 2014.
Still, even if General Manager Rick Spielman has a master plan to push the Vikings closer toward championship contention, a roster full of players is still awaiting a full explanation on why the Harvin trade was made.
League MVP Adrian Peterson took to Twitter to vent.
“The best all around player I ever seen or you'll ever see! Goes to Seattle! I feel like I just got kicked in the stomach. Several times!!!” Peterson wrote. “I wish my boy Percy nothing but success! God bless you homie.”
Veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams also took time out Monday to speak with the Star Tribune, sharing his candid thoughts on the deal.
On his initial reaction to the trade …
“I mean I wasn’t exactly celebrating when I heard about the deal. I wouldn’t say that I’m disappointed. But I mean, when you look at it on the surface, you say to yourself ‘Why in the world would we do this?’ It’s a situation where you never want to be going backwards or feel like you are. I guess we’ll see what we get in the draft or maybe even free agency. But that’s a crapshoot when you’re trying to make up for a guy as proven as Percy.”
On letting the news sink in …
“With losing a player like Percy, initially it’s always going to seem like a bad thing. But if we’re able to get somebody who’s really good in the draft, it can become a good thing. You wait and see. You have to. But that initial first look, makes you take a step back and go. ‘Man, why did we do this?’ At the same time, it’s a business and you have to understand that.”
On losing a top playmaker so late in his career …
“It’s tough. Because you look at our situation when we go 3-13 a couple years ago and 6-10 the year before that. Then we have such a good year last year and it seems like we’re in good shape. I still wish Percy could have finished the season. He could have helped us. But other things happened and we still ended up doing well when he was out. But he could have been another weapon down the stretch for us. And so you have to now look at a situation where you’re waiting to see what’s next. Like I say, it’s a crapshoot depending on what we get out of this draft. I’ll have to see what the compensation is that can help us try to make up for this.”
On the reaction amongst teammates when Harvin left the team after being placed on injured reserve in Week 14 …
“I wouldn’t say it bothered me. Because I don’t know what all what went on. And I couldn’t say for sure what the relationship was like between him and the coaching staff and management. We just don’t know what that situation was about. I don’t know what his reason was for taking off. I just know that he was gone. And that’s the way it was left. Nobody every just came out and explained it to us, like, ‘Hey, he left for A, B, C and D.’ So I don’t know what that relationship turned into. Was there something talked about? Was there a big problem? Or did he just leave? None of us really knew. I’m pretty sure it was addressed and we never got a clear answer on that. At all.”
On Harvin’s reputation as a hot-tempered problem child and whether that gets blown out of proportion …
Well, it's pretty clear the Vikings didn't consult with the NFL's Most Valuable Player before making today's Percy Harvin trade.
Running back Adrian Peterson, the guy who nicknamed Harvin "Mighty Mouse" during Harvin's NFL Rookie of the Year season in 2009, took to Twitter to voice his shock and disappointment with the news that Harvin had been traded to Seattle for first- and seventh-round picks this year and a mid-round pick in 2014.
The best all around player I ever seen or you'll ever see! Goes to Seattle! I feel like I just got kicked in the stomach. Several times!!!— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) March 11, 2013
For the record, that's five exclamation points of surprise/anger from the face of the franchise. This won't affect Peterson's preparation for the 2013 season, but the Vikings might want to sit down with their best player and 'splain what went down and why.
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.
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