With NFL free agency and the new league year set to begin at 1 p.m. Pacific time today, the Seattle Seahawks took a swan dive into the beginning of player movement by negotiating a trade with Minnesota for electric receiver Percy Harvin on Monday.
The Seahawks have not confirmed the move, which is contingent on Harvin passing a physical at the team’s facility once the new league year begins today.
However, it is thought the Seahawks gave up this year’s first-round draft choice, the No. 25 overall pick, along with a seventh-round choice this year and a third-round choice in 2014.
In return, Seattle received one of the most explosive playmakers in the game in Harvin, who turns 25 years old in May. The University of Florida product has one year remaining on his deal, and is set to make $2.8 million in base salary for 2013.
But as part of the deal in trading for Harvin, the Seahawks will negotiate a new contract that could pay the mercurial receiver up to $12 million annually.
Seattle coaches are familiar with Harvin’s talents, including head coach Pete Carroll, who tried to recruit him to USC during his time as coach of the Trojans.
“He’s a fantastic player,” Carroll said about Harvin before Seattle’s 30-20 win over the Vikings in 2012. “He was arguably the best player in America coming out of (high) school. So the fact that he’s playing with all of the top guys, and his numbers are on top of the league, that’s fitting.”
Harvin finished with a team-best 62 catches for 677 yards and three touchdowns for the Vikings in 2012. In four seasons, he totaled 280 catches, 3,302 yards and 20 receiving touchdowns. Harvin also rushed for 683 yards and four touchdowns.
Seattle still has eight picks in this year’s draft. Carroll said at his season-ending press conference in January that all the team’s draft picks likely would not make the 2013 roster. So Seahawks general manager John Schneider had some motivation to move a couple of picks if he could get an impact player back in return.
And according to Harvin’s ex-teammate, running back Adrian Peterson, Seattle got one.
“The best all around player I (sic) ever seen or you’ll ever see! Goes to Seattle! I feel like I just got kicked in the stomach. Several times!!!” Peterson said via Twitter after hearing the news that Harvin had been traded. “I wish my boy Percy nothing but success! God bless you homie.”
Seattle players also welcomed their new teammate to the fold via Twitter, including safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman.
“Welcome to the Team bruh @Percy_Harvin Happy to have ya,” Sherman tweeted.
However, receiver Golden Tate, entering the final year of his rookie contract and like to lose playing time to Harvin, was a bit more tempered in his enthusiasm.
“The Seahawks are trying to do whatever they think is necessary to put together a Super Bowl-quality team,” Tate told ESPN. “If this is one of the steps they think works to accomplish that, then that’s their choice. I don’t think it will impact any of our work habits. We are still going to grind and let the cards play out the way that they will.”
Harvin’s addition gives Seattle one of the best three-receiver sets in the league, and likely he will play slot receiver, with Sidney Rice and Tate out wide. But Harvin also has the ability to line up as an outside receiver and serve as a vertical threat in the passing game.
Rice and Tate combined for 14 touchdowns during the 2012 regular season. Only seven teams (Green Bay, Denver, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Dallas and Cincinnati) had receiver duos that finished with more combined touchdowns.
Harvin reunites with Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who served as his offensive coordinator in Minnesota, and gives quarterback Russell Wilson another explosive playmaker, particularly with Seattle’s ability to successfully run the zone read option in 2012.
However, Harvin does come with his share of baggage.
He finished last season on the injured reserve list after suffering an ankle injury against the Seahawks in November. But the reason he finished 2012 on the shelf reportedly had more to do with a minor blowup with coach Leslie Frazier in front of teammates.
Harvin reportedly demanded a trade, and voiced his opinion that Vikings starting quarterback Christian Ponder wasn’t talented enough.
Seattle’s last trade for a wide receiver involving the team giving up a first-round pick didn’t go so well — with former Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell getting Deion Branch from New England in September 2006.
Branch never developed into a No. 1 receiver during a little over four seasons in Seattle, and was traded back to the Patriots for a fourth-round pick in October 2010.
The Seahawks trading for Harvin does not preclude them from being active in free agency.
With 20 of 22 starters already signed for 2013, Seattle does not have a lot of holes to fill. Still, with nearly $17 million in projected cap room available before the team signs Harvin to a new deal, the Seahawks have wiggle room to make some deals in free agency.
Seattle has seven players set to hit the open market, including defensive linemen Alan Branch and Jason Jones, kicker Steven Hauschka, linebacker Leroy Hill, cornerback Marcus Trufant, offensive lineman Frank Omiyale and tight end Cameron Morrah.
Projected restricted free agents for the Seahawks include defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, long snapper Clint Gresham and safety Chris Maragos.
With Harvin expected to sign a lucrative, multi-year deal, the Seahawks also could consider restructuring contracts for players who are due to make significant money in 2013.
Among them, receiver Rice is due to make $8.5 million in non-guaranteed, base salary.
Tight end Zach Miller is set to make $10 million in total compensation in 2013, giving him an $11 million cap number. Miller is scheduled to make $6.8 million in base salary, $4 million of which is guaranteed. Miller is due a $3 million roster bonus on March 21.
Possible salary cap casualties could include receiver Ben Obomanu, who’s due to make $2.3 million in non-guaranteed, base salary on the final year of his three-year deal. Returner Leon Washington could become expendable with the addition of Harvin. Washington is set to make $2.5 million in non-guaranteed, total compensation in 2013. The Seahawks are shopping him for a possible trade.
Reserve quarterback Matt Flynn is due $5.25 million in salary, $2 million of which is guaranteed. If the Seahawks trade Flynn, they would save $5.25 million in cash and $3.25 million in cap space.