Lots of work to be done after Harvin trade
So how can an offense, which had one of the most anemic passing games in the NFL, trade off its best receiver and hope to be more potent?
The Minnesota Vikings are on such a venture after trading away their second-most dangerous weapon on offense, sending fifth-year do-it-all Percy Harvin to Seattle for first and seventh round picks in this year’s draft and a third rounder in 2014.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, they once again had to part ways with a receiver in his prime due to off the field issues, i.e. The Randy Moss Syndrome.
Harvin certainly has proven to be one of the most versatile and effective players in the league, despite his 5-11 and 184-pound frame.
His ability to create yards after the catch was an electric facet of the Vikings’ offense. Harvin has accumulated 280 receptions for 3,302 yards and 20 touchdowns during his time in Minnesota.
The majority of those started as a screen, in which he would turn it up the field and punish tacklers with a strong upper-body frame which would produce a quick 10-15 yards downfield.
Harvin is also known for the migraines he suffered his first two seasons in the NFL, several of which cost him a couple of games.
The bad thing for the Vikings is Harvin decided to spread his migraines in the locker room and amongst the coaching staff.
He once was rumored to have thrown a weight at then head coach Brad Childress after the release of his friend Moss, and then allegedly had a shouting match with the soft-spoken Leslie Frazier.
Like it was stated in many media outlets, if you can’t get along with ol’ Les, who can you get along with?
But after last week’s trade of Harvin to Seattle, that’s all water under the bridge. The Seahawks are loading up for a Super Bowl run, which will include two former star Viking receivers in Harvin and Sidney Rice.
Seattle now has just over $21 million a year stuck into Rice and Harvin, who signed a five-year, $64.5 million dollar contract, with $25.5 million guaranteed.
Although as it stands in March, the Vikings are not a better team without Harvin, they do have an opportunity to add several playmakers to the offense to help out Superman, Adrian Peterson.
In essence, with the bounty they gained from the Harvin trade, the Vikings could in fact be more potent for the upcoming season – if the right moves are made.
There is very little room for error now with Harvin receiving his passes from Russell Wilson instead of Christian Ponder, but with the money saved from the trade and the extra draft picks, the Vikings can improve.
First, general manager Rick Spielman needs to start building a wide receiver corps which resembles a professional unit.
Even though Harvin was a vital asset to the passing game, the Vikings did not possess a true No. 1 wide receiver.
That means, an outside receiver who can stretch the field. Harvin was an animal in the slot, but when asked to split the defenders and go deep, he was not qualified to do that.
Having that WR who is over six feet, 200 pounds, who has speed and leaping ability is needed. The Vikings obviously weren’t going to touch the lofty contract Miami gave Mike Wallace of Pittsburgh, and they were out-bid by San Francisco to trade for 33-year-old Anquan Boldin for a sixth round pick.
As of this writing, they were hot and heavy on the trail of Green Bay wide out Greg Jennings. There is risk tagged by signing Jennings, who is a natural slot receiver, with his 30-year-old legs and the last two seasons of being injured.
Now, Jennings would be a good start to filling the cupboard back up with a legit threat at receiver, but more needs to be done.
There will be second and third tier free agents out there who would be vital additions as No. 2 and 3 receivers.
Potential targets come in the form of the Giants’ Ramses Barden, who is a 6-6 target and would be a chain mover and red zone threat; St. Louis burner Brandon Gibson, who can provide that over the top threat, while defenses stack the box to stop Peterson; and Buffalo’s David Nelson, who is a 6-5 sure-handed slot receiver.
All of these receivers are under the age of 26, can be had for very reasonable contracts and would fit the bill of solid secondary receivers.
One other extreme move would be to front-load a contract offer to New York’s Victor Cruz, who has a first-round tender on him, to steal him away from the cap-strapped Giants. It would require about an $8-10 million a year offer, as well as the Vikings’ first round pick of No. 23.
It’s a move the Vikes could make, since they still have Seattle’s No. 25 overall pick, in which they could land the top linebacker available in Alec Ogletree, Kevin Minter or Arthur Brown.
That’s where Spielman’s strongest virtue will come into play – the NFL Draft.
Fortunately for the Vikings, this year’s draft is very deep in quality receivers, just not that blue-chipper of years past like a Dez Bryant, Justin Blackmon or A.J. Green.
But there is a Harvin clone in West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, who tore up his Pro Day audition last week, along with Mountaineer QB Geno Smith.
Austin would provide that burst from the slot with his 4.2 40-yard speed, along with the ability to take a screen to the house. He also has proven to be a very dangerous kickoff returner and is just a tad smaller than Harvin at 5-9, 171 pounds.
Then there are those No. 1 types of receivers, who can take to the outside and make the long catches.
The top ones are Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson (6-3, 205), California’s Keenan Allen (6-3, 210), Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins (6-1, 205), Tennessee’s Justin Hunter (6-4, 200) and USC’s Robert Woods (6-1, 190).
Players such as Woods, Hunter and possibly Hopkins could fall to the second round, where the Vikings may be in line to take two WR’s with two of their first three picks.
It will be a well known fact come draft time that the Vikings will be in line to be picking receiver(s) early, even if they can land Jennings and another lower-tier WR.
Of course, the elephant in the room dictating if the Vikings’ passing game can evolve, lies on the shoulders of Ponder.
But that’s another article.