Given the Vikings history of signing players to long-term extensions during the season prior to the final year of their contract, the next few weeks could be critical in the Vikings’ relationship with Harvin. If all goes well, Harvin gets the long-term extension the Vikings need to make their plan for the future work. If it doesn’t, the next couple years could be interesting to say the least.
Harvin is currently in the 4th year of a 5 year contract he signed as a rookie in 2009. He made it well known in the offseason that he wanted a contract extension or a trade out of Minnesota. Now with the offense sputtering the lack of contract talks may be causing some discord between he and the team.
It is a difficult situation for Harvin for a number of reasons. The Vikings are one of the teams that seems to always be strapped for cash and are very hesitant to lock in long term on certain positions. While Harvin puts up strong numbers he plays in the slot and most teams do not value that position nearly as much as a WR lining up outside the hash marks. Harvin has value as a return man, but few teams in the NFL will put a real dollar value on that number. Perhaps most frustrating though to Harvin is that the longer he waits the more likely it is for the receiver market to change in a negative direction.
While teams have paid big money for top of the line wide receivers such as Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson it is only a matter of time before teams realize that a receiver can only make an impact if the rest of the team around them plays well. For all of the big dollars the Arizona Cardinals have given Fitzgerald, his impact was minimized once Kurt Warner retired. Johnson has had a poor year with a struggling team. Andre Johnson never had the impact on the Houston Texans that Arian Foster and the offensive line has had. Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers became a non-factor once Jake Delhomme started playing so poorly.
NFL teams change directions every few years, such as the move from salary investments in run dominated offenses to investments in the passing game, and the writing is on the wall that teams should move away from the high priced receiver. This is only strengthened by the fact that more and more receivers are coming out of college, due to the stylistic change in the NCAA to pro style offenses, polished and ready to contribute at the pro level. What used to take 3 and 4 years in the past is happening in 1 or 2 and the pricetag is nothing for a rookie.
As time goes on contracts like those of Santonio Holmes of the New York Jets will disappear and those are the players who are Harvins comparables. It is going to minimize his value, especially if Victor Cruz of the NY Giants ends up with a contract that is not in the upper echelon. The Vikings have no reason to move on Harvins contract, either. Harvin will likely receive a salary next year of $3.2 million and then will have his rights controlled via the franchise tag the following season. With the tag numbers stagnant it puts the player in a terrible bargaining position. That may be where Percy Harvin finds himself over the next few years.