Percy Harvin himself broke the news that he would need surgery to repair a hip injury, leaving the Seahawks one WR short for a majority of the season. In some ways it is lucky that Harvin suffered an injury before camp began. Because Harvin had yet to pass a physical with the team he landed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The Seahawks can stash him on PUP until late in the season and then activate him at a later date, which I believe is sometime in late November under the new NFL rules. This frees up short term IR designation for a player who is injured during training camp or early in the season.
From a salary cap perspective the move is not devastating to the Seahawks. Harvin, who signed a large extension this offseason, was only going to count for $4.9 million against the salary cap this season, so Seattle had not built their financial structure strictly around him. However the injury should now make Sidney Rice, whose $9.7 million dollar cap charge could have made him expendable or at least forced into a paycut, 100% safe to play out the year at his current cap charge. The injury should also open the door for Golden Tate to see more looks in the offense.
The cap and contractual situations of these players should be beneficial to the Seahawks. Seattle already made it known that they were committing financially to Harvin, meaning the other two would likely not have futures in Seattle. Rice knows his cap charges will most likely see him cut after the year while Tate is in the final year of his contract. Even TE Zach Miller, another overpaid target in the offense whose contract will most likely be terminated following the season, should help fill the void. Players looking for new contracts have every incentive to outperform expectations and show up ready to go so that may bode well for Seattle.
Unfortunately for Seattle they had structured Harvin’s contract to have this as his “bargain” year before the salary cap charges would spike well into the double digits. Though he may still play this year, the injury likely ruins whatever visions they had from a roster management standpoint for the short term. Next season Harvin’s cap charge will rise to $13.4 million.
The injury to Harvin shows why teams are often so hesitant to extend players early. While we all focus on the player perspective, such as Jeremy Maclin’s whose ACL injury may have cost him millions, Harvin is going to be exhibit A as to why teams do not overpay early for players. Harvin, who has only played 16 games once in his career and finished last season on IR, was given a top of the market contract extension following a trade in which the Seahawks gave up a 1st round pick for Harvin. You can bet that other GM’s around the NFL will look at this when considering offers made to their own free agents and factor in the injury possibility as reason for offering lower price points to their players. Both sides need protection from the injury, the players via guarantees and the team via a “sticker price discount” for taking some of the injury risk away from the player. Seattle got neither.
Essentially Seattle treated Harvin as if he was a Restricted Free Agent with a 1st round tender. Most players, such as the Giants Victor Cruz, would not even get a sniff from another team with such a high price tag. Seattle went all in on the player, including $14.5 million in cash obligations alone just for the 2013 season. It was a risky deal and they will probably not gain much benefit at all from him in 2013.
Seattle has so much invested in Harvin that they also need to be careful not to rush him back and risk further injury. Harvin has $11 million dollars in 2014 already guaranteed for injury. The guarantee vests to a fully guaranteed salary a few days after the Super Bowl. The last thing they want is to have a much larger cap charge on IR next season because they tried to get him back sooner rather than later. Seattle was fine without Harvin last year and their cap structure isn’t hurt by the injury. His being injured next year would be much more crippling to the financial structure of the team.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.