Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rick Spielman and Percy Harvin

After spending Monday and Tuesday calling for the firings of David Kahn and Tubby Smith, it seemed only fair to give credit where credit is due. Rick Spielman, Leslie Frazier and the rest of the Vikings front office did a great job in last year's draft, getting contributions from several rookies that helped carry them to the post-season.

Choosing Christian Ponder over Colin Kaepernick (and Ryan Mallett) in 2011 is a mistake that the team will likely regret for years to come. However, as important as the QB position is, teams still need to build a roster around a QB to make the playoffs. The Vikings managed to make the playoffs without a real NFL QB on their roster, which is a major accomplishment. A quick look at the team's draft class last season:

Matt Kalil was a pro bowler at left tackle, Harrison Smith is the team's best safety in a long long time (he's better than Robert Griffith was overall, already) and Josh Robinson did as solid as rookie corner backs are expected to do. Greg Childs was a big whiff, as he suffered a knee injury in training camp and will likely never be anywhere close to the player the Vikings drafted. Jarius Wright showed some flashes when the team deactivated Percy Harvin, and while I doubt he'll ever become a great player he should be decent out of the slot for the next few years. Rhett Ellison, Robert Blanton, Audie Cole and Trevor Guyton didn't do a whole lot, but Cole was solid on special teams and the other 3 were likely drafted as developmental players anyway. Blair Walsh put together quite possibly the best season ever by a kicker, making the pro bowl and converting an amazing 10 50+ yard field goals into points for the passing challenged Vikings.

The team appears likely to trade Percy Harvin this off-season, which is too bad, but not entirely surprising. As great as Harvin has been, especially last season, he's been somewhat of a problem for years. Fans were able to brush off reports of a heated argument with Brad Childress years ago because everyone just assumed Childress was an instigator at times and Percy simply gave him what he deserved. Fans weren't very high on Brad Childress, in case anyone forgot. But when it was reported that the Vikings may have deactivated Percy Harvin because of an argument in front of coaches and players with the usually calm Leslie Frazier and not because of his ankle injury, the writing was on the wall.

While most fans won't want to see Percy traded, myself included, Spielman and Frazier and company are the ones that have spent most of the last three years around Harvin. They're the only ones who really know the extent of the problems and the issues he might create if the team gives him the big money extension he's reportedly looking for. If the Vikings do trade Harvin, I don't expect the Vikings to be able to get a first round pick. As great as he's been, he only has one year left on his deal, is coming off of an injury, and likely will require big time money to extend.

In an ideal world the Vikings will keep Percy and continue to build a dynamic offense around Percy and Adrian Peterson, but as we all know, this isn't the ideal world. Expect to see Percy Harvin traded sometime before the draft, likely for a pair of third round picks, at best. If that happens it'll be unfortunate, but after the front office turned a 3-13 team into a 10-6 team with a solid draft, they get the benefit of the doubt at least for this season.

One silver lining of a Percy Harvin trade is that Ponder's stats will certainly get worse. Without the ability to throw a 1 yard screen pass to Harvin and have him run for 20 yards, Ponder's yardage and completion percentage will undoubtedly take a hit without Harvin around. That's a silver lining because Ponder clearly isn't the answer at QB, and it might take a poor showing from him for an entire season for the Vikings finally choose to move on and get a more talented player at that position.

Regardless, unlike in 2005 when a mediocre Vikings franchise traded Randy Moss for what turned out to be a pile of crap, I'll give the Vikings the benefit of the doubt. If they think they can build a winner by allocating Percy's extension money to other parts of the roster, and get multiple draft picks as well, then maybe it is the right decision. Expecting the Vikings to return to the playoffs next year is probably a pipe dream, but if Spielman and company can have another great draft, we might see them competing in the playoffs for years to come, Percy or no Percy.