Percy Harvin took to Twitter on Wednesday night to claim it’s not about the money. I’m not buying it. All day on Wednesday after initial reports indicated Harvin had demanded a trade, I heard talk about the possibility that he’s not happy with his role in the offense, or that he doesn’t get along with quarterback Christian Ponder or offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, or any number of highly entertaining ideas that percolated after the hashtag #unhappypercy went viral on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon. While I’d gladly lead the bandwagon for getting Harvin more touches in the offense, I still find it nearly impossible to believe that this is about touching the football more. There are just too many reasons to believe it is, in fact, about the money.
Football is a violent game. The lifespan of any player is extremely short; even shorter if a player plays a position that demands elite speed and athleticism, and one which involves frequent high-speed collisions. Harvin is a violent football player. He invites contact rather than avoiding it. He runs through defenders as often as he runs around them. He’s as strong as he is fast, all of which is why he’s such a good player. But it’s also why his career could be cut short at just about any moment. It’s why he might be at more risk of a career-shortening injury than a pure deep threat wide receiver like, say, Randy Moss – who has had a long and richly rewarding career in part for his ability to run past defenders instead of into them.
And then there’s Percy’s migraine headache issues. Harvin has shown a remarkable ability to play through his debilitating migraines, but it’s an ever-present reminder about just how thin the line is that Harvin is walking every game, let alone every season.
It’s distinctly possible Harvin might have only one chance to get paid big money. If I set the over/under on Percy’s career lasting another seven years, would anyone confidently take the over? With that in mind, I don’t blame him for seeing an opportunity right now to land his first mega-contract with tens of millions of guaranteed dollars. As of today, Harvin is set to make less in base salary this season than three other Vikings pass-catchers (Michael Jenkins, John Carlson, and Jerome Simpson all have a higher base). Considering Harvin’s importance to the offense, he has every right to be frustrated about that. He has every right to want to get his millions now, coming off a career-best year in which he was one of the three or four most dangerous wide receivers in the NFL throughout the second half of the season. Essentially everyone but Harvin himself (if his Tweets are to be believed) agrees that he’s being vastly underpaid, which is exactly why this has to be about the money.
The NFL is the only one of the major sports that doesn’t guarantee its player contracts. If the teams can sign a player to a five-year deal for what seems to be a huge amount of money and then cut bait on that same player without hurting themselves financially, the player should have the right to renegotiate a contract that’s not in his best interest at any time as well.
Of course, the difficulty here is that the reasons why Percy is motivated to seek a huge sum of guaranteed money right now are the same reasons why the team might be reluctant to give it to him. Except in the court of public opinion, the Vikings have all the leverage here. By making use of the franchise tag, they can effectively control Harvin for the next three years on their own terms. Beyond an ill-advised holdout that could cost him thousands and, potentially, a full accrued year towards free agency, Harvin has virtually no recourse here. Still, the Vikings would probably gladly talk to Harvin about a new contract, but it would almost certainly be a team-friendly deal, given they are wielding the power. Frankly, it might be a blessing in disguise for the team – if Percy had just kept his mouth shut and played out one more season under his current deal, he’d be in a much better position at this time next year to demand more millions than he can reasonably demand right now.
I can’t blame the man for wanting to get paid while he’s still healthy and coming off a breakout season. I say pay him, and I’ll bet Bill Musgrave’s offense will suddenly look a lot better, the weather in Minnesota won’t be that cold, and sharing some of Ponder’s affection with John Carlson and Jerome Simpson won’t be such a horrible idea.
Follow Christian on Twitter: @CP_ChristianP