Oct 25, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (12) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Metrodome. The Buccaneers defeated the Vikings 36-17. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The True Cost of Percy Harvin


In the wake of the fairly surprising Cliff Avril signing the Percy Harvin addition may seem like old news but I thought I’d revisit the distant past if you’ll indulge me. First off I’d like to say that I am a big fan of the move because I think Percy Harvin is a unique talent who makes this offence 12.8%* more dangerous. His YAC ability, blazing speed and versatility make him enormously valuable and at 24 he is at a juncture of his career where his production is likely to ascend over the next couple of years. Pre- prime players who are already stars don’t often make their way to the trade market and when they do the cost is bound to be high. That’s what I plan to discuss today, the cost of Percy Harvin. No NFL transaction exists in a vacuum, if I were to ask any Seahawks fan a week ago, “Hey would you like to have to have Percy Harvin on the Seahawks?” the overwhelming majority of them would have said, “Yes please.” However, a small minority of alert fans/cynics would ask, “What is it going to cost me?” Harvin is a great player but regardless of his greatness there is a price that would be too high for his services. Minnesota couldn’t have simply asked for three 1st round picks and Russell Wilson. When we analyze the price of Mr. Harvin there are two components, the first one being the draft picks the Seahawks sent to Minnesota and the second one being Harvin’s lucrative contract extension. We’ll start by looking at the draft pick cost.

The Cost of Percy Harvin Part One: Draft Picks

When the trade was all said and done the Seahawks had given Minnesota the 25th overall pick in the 2013 draft, a 2013 7th rounder and a 2014 3rd rounder. The real question to the value of these picks is what kind of players you can expect to acquire with these type of picks. The centerpiece of the deal is the 25th overall pick this year so forgive me if I spend approximately 647† times more effort determining its value. In ascending order of value:

2013 7th round pick: The Seahawks have the 8th, 14th and 25th picks in the 7th round and I was unable to determine which one went to Minnesota but ultimately it doesn’t make a ton of difference. A 7th round pick is an absolute lottery ticket in terms of acquiring an NFL caliber special teamer let alone a starter or difference maker of any kid. Do not let the loss of this pick trouble you.

2014 3rd round pick: This pick is actually significant. 3rd round picks tend to play some kind of role in the NFL and finding a starter here is far from unheard of. Stars like NaVarro Bowman, Eric Decker and of course Russell Wilson were all 3rd round picks as well as the newest Seahawk, Cliff Avril. A 3rd round pick is far from a sure thing but if you choose wisely you can find a very cost effective starter. If I knew exactly which pick this would be I’d give some examples of previous examples of players chosen at that spot but alas I don’t feel comfortable slotting Seattle in for the 32nd pick just yet. It should be considered that Seattle is fairly certain to be picking in the bottom section of the round making this worse than most 3rd round picks but far from an insignificant asset.

2013 1st round pick (25th overall): This is the biggest piece that the Seahawks will be relinquishing and by a fairly heavy margin. To give you a sense of the kind of players available at the 25th spot below is a list of all the 25th overall picks from the 2000’s with a brief career summary.

2000- Chris Hovan DT- Vikings

Hovan was an undersized penetrating DT who had a 10 year career concluding in 2009. He was very durable playing in 156 (149 starts) of a possible 160 games with the peak of his career coming in 2001-2002 where he had 11.5 sacks and a 2nd team All-Pro berth in 2002. Good pick, good player who was great at times.

2001- Freddie Mitchell WR- Eagles

Although Freddie Mitchell was an interesting character who had some memorable moments in his career, he will likely be remembered as a disappointment and a bust. Mitchell lasted 4 years in the NFL where he was only able to total 1263 yards and 5 touchdowns despite catching balls from a then-elite Donavan McNabb. Hardly a Ryan Leaf caliber bust, but not a good player and not even really a starter (started 17 games over 4 years despite dressing for 63).

2002- Charles Grant DE- Saints

Grant was a stout DE at 6-3 282 who was known for a well-rounded game. His best years were in 2003 and 2004 when he put up 10 and 10.5 sacks respectively. In his later years Grant was less of a pure pass rusher but remained a valuable starter. Grant would end his career at age 31 with 47 career sacks. He spent all 8 years of his career with the Saints, starting 106 games for them during that span. Another good pick to grab a good starter over a long period of time.

2003- William Joseph DT- Giants

Joseph had a quiet 6 year career (4 with the Giants) in which he totaled 17 starts and 7 sacks. He started 10 games in 2005 but was never able to crack the starting lineup with any regularity otherwise. Joseph had the kind of career that thousands of NFL hopefuls would die for but not what one would expect from a 1st round pick.

2004- Ahmad Carroll CB- Packers

Carroll is a player that I recall being fairly poorly thought of by Packers fans when he started for them in 2004 and 2005 and that seems to make sense because he was a special teams player for the rest of his career until 2009. Much like William Joseph the 5 year career that Carroll had which included 28 starts would be the envy of many players but it isn’t exactly what a team would want from its first round pick. On the plus side, Carroll had some success in the CFL where he won the Grey Cup last year with the Toronto Argonauts and promptly retired. So in a way he sailed off into the sunset, sort of.

2005- Jason Campbell QB- Redskins

Campbell was a QB that I always kind of liked but he wasn’t a franchise quarterback in the end and when your 1st round quarterback isn’t a franchise quarterback he will be considered a disappointment. The conservative Campbell has only thrown for 20 TD’s once and has a disappointing 6.7 career yards per attempt. Campbell is the kind of guy who is probably in the top 32 best quarterbacks around at any given time but you know that if he’s starting for your team you are in need of a different solution. Hard to evaluate a player like this who is good and has been a starter but isn’t good enough and probably shouldn’t have been a starter. To be fair to Campbell he never had a ton to work with in either Washington or Oakland.

2006- Santonio Holmes WR- Steelers

Probably the first player we’ve dealt with so far who many would consider to be an elite talent. The 2008 Super Bowl MVP has had an excellent career with 5507 yards and 35 TD’s so far to go along with 59.9 yards receiving per game. His numbers have declined since going to the Jets, probably in large part due to poor QB play. Seems to be spending his prime languishing on an awful team with an awful passing offense but he’s making enough money that it’s hard to feel sorry for him. Excellent player and an excellent pick.

2007- Jon Beason MLB- Panthers

Beason is an absolute stud. Or perhaps he was. It’s hard to say exactly. In Beason’s first four years in the league he was a Pro Bowler thrice and a first team All-Pro once. He was a tackling machine who was a major asset to a relatively inept Carolina defense in both the rushing and passing games. Unfortunately, Beason has only played 5 games in the last two years due to injury and it’s pretty difficult to project what his career might look like from here. Even so, most teams would take 64 excellent starts and 3 Pro Bowl appearances from their 1st round picks.

2008- Mike Jenkins CB- Cowboys

Jenkins is currently a free agent and I haven’t heard of any team expressing interest yet. Not to say that his NFL career is done but that should give some indication of where Mike Jenkins is at. Jenkins made the Pro Bowl in 2009 after hauling in 5 interceptions and deflecting 19 passes but never had another season even remotely as impressive. In his five years in the league he has amassed only 8 interceptions and he lost his starting gig with Dallas last year. Jenkins was a starter for 3 years, one of them good and that in itself has some value but the perception of him suffers because he never lived up to the promise he showed in his second season.

2009- Vontae Davis CB- Dolphins

The fact the Vontae Davis is already on his second team is somewhat alarming but the Colts corner has been a solid starter over the last four years who may not have reached his potential yet. At 24 it seems a bit early to render judgment on the athletic Davis other than to say that the fact he is already an established starter in the NFL bodes well and he is probably a better player than at least half of the players listed above him.

2010- Tim Tebow QB- Broncos

There are a million things that could be said about Tim Tebow. This article is about Percy Harvin so I will refrain from a tempting tangent. I will say that in my humble opinion Tim Tebow is not a good quarterback and he may well be an adequate football player in a different capacity but even if this is the case he should be thought of as a disappointment in the context of being a 1st round pick.

2011- James Carpenter OT- Seahawks

There are reasons to be disappointed with this pick, like injury concerns and the fact Carpenter lacks the feet to play RT, a positon of need on the Seahawks, but the fact is Carpenter looks capable of becoming a quality starter at guard. If you can get a quality starter it’s hard to complain especially when you are picking late enough in the first round that the truly elite talents are unlikely to be available. This looks like a fine pick if Carpenter can stay healthy.

2012- Don’t’a Hightower- ILB Patriots

Hightower started 13 games as a rookie and was productive with 4 sacks, 2 FR and a touchdown. He looks like a keeper but it’s really far too early to say if this was a wise pick for the Patriots.

There’s the list. There are some good playeere but there are very few elite players. Beason is undoubtedly one, providing 3 of the 4 collective Pro Bowl appearances among these 13 players. You could probably argue that Santonio Holmes was an elite player with Pittsburgh and he is a Superbowl MVP so that’s 2/13 (15%) elite players. Elite is fairly subjective so let’s talk about starters. If we call we generously call James Carpenter and Don’t’a Hightower starters we have 10 starters (although Carroll and Campbell could be viewed as disappointments in the role). I suspect that’s an unusually high number for this area of the draft and given the small sample I imagine it’s not very predictive. I would guess that if you included picks 23 through 27 you would find a higher bust rate. This study of 25th picks is more descriptive of the type of player you are likely to find in that spot than predictive of the future in any way. This history suggests that at the 25th pick you are likely to find a solid starter for your team who is not a Pro Bowler (Hovan, Grant, Jenkins and Davis fall into this category with Carpenter and Hightower pretty good bets to fit into this category). On the surface it seems very unlikely that you will find a Harvin-quality player. However, the Vikings don’t necessarily need to find a Harvin quality player to come away from this trade OK. The beauty of a late first round pick  is that not only are you likely to get a starter, you are likely to get one at an incredibly low price. Last year Don’t’a’ Hightower got a 4 year contract worth 7.7 million from the Patriots out of the draft, which is absolute peanuts when you consider what a 22 year old starting caliber linebacker could fetch on a hypothetical open market. The 25th pick is immensely valuable because the Vikings are not only likely to restock their talent. but to do so at an incredibly discount. When you add that to the 7th round lottery ticket and the substantial but somewhat mysterious 2014 3rd round pick you are looking at quite the haul for Minnesota and a heavy price paid for Seattle. Now let’s look more briefly (I promise) at the contract.

The Cost of Percy Harvin Part Two: Harvin’s Extension

I realize the journey to determine what the Seahawks gave up in draft picks was a long one so I’ll try and be a bit shorter here. The reality is that if brevity is truly the soul of wit than I am a truly witless man. Sometimes numbers speak louder than words so I’m going to throw up a career stats and contract comparison of Percy Harvin to Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe, the big WR’s who signed as free agents this year.

Player

Age

Contract Years

Contract Total

Guaranteed Money

Annual Value

Rec/G

Yards/G

TD/G

Percy Harvin

24

6

67 million

26 million

11.17 million

5.2

73.7

.54

Mike Wallace

26

5

60 million

30 million

12 million

3.7

66.6

.51

Dwayne Bowe

28

5

56 million

26 million

11.2 million

4.7

65.3

.44

 

If you look at this chart Harvin is the youngest, cheapest (on a yearly basis), and most productive, on a per game basis. The Seahawks are paying the market price for a receiver of Harvin’s skill level. That means that Harvin’s surplus value comes from extraordinary production not a team friendly contract but that’s OK. Harvin is capable of providing extraordinary production and has done so in the past with regularity. His youth also makes the contract more sensible as the Chiefs will be paying a premium for some of Dwayne Bowe’s decline years, and while the Dolphins get years 26-31 with Wallace, which should be productive, I’m more confident in Harvin’s 24-30 years as they make up the heart of his prime. There is no doubt that this is an expensive contract but it is a fair contract and the Seahawks are paying a premium price for a premium player.

Overall I hope this gives you a sense of what it costs to get a 24 year old star like Percy Harvin. The Seahawks relinquished a draft pick that is likely to provide value both in terms of talent and a cap friendly salary and two others as well as giving Harvin a contract that he must continue to produce in order to justify. The cost is high. We cannot pretend the Seahawks did not pay dearly for Percy Harvin. People are often naturally risk-averse and this is a risk. I think that this is a risk Seattle won’t regret because Harvin is the rare player who can produce enough to be valuable even at a very high salary. It is my belief that this move makes this team better in the short and long term but Minnesota got theirs too (especially when you consider the cap room they save by not extending Harvin) and it was far from the steal. This deal is high risk, high reward and high stakes. Sounds like an awful lot of fun to me. Also sounds an awful lot like Pete Carroll.

 

 

 

*If you remember this asterisk from the beginning of the article congratulations. I just wanted you to note that I made that number up based on absolutely nothing (but it sounds vaguely plausible right?). It’s important to be transparent.

† Apparently I was in the making up number mood today…

 

 

Tags: Dwayne Bowe Featured Mike Wallace Percy Harvin Popular

  • Hawk_Eye

    Here’s the thing… None of us know how Pete Carroll plans to use Percy Harvin in the offense. Pistol? Option? 4 receiver sets? When it’s all said and done, this could be one of the best trades the Seahawks have ever made.

  • DRRL

    Definitely one of the better articles assessing this deal. Thanks, Nick, for providing some clarity and comparative context.

  • PR-VIKING

    Vikings are negotiating with Greg Jennings to fill Harvin spot. Althouh Harvin have more talent than Jennings have to provide, this deal gives a high caliber for another high caliber receiver plus the three picks they acquired from Seattle. You may argue that Harvin is a more complete player however, he did not want to stay with the Vikings and probably would have ended up being a big headache and unproductive player. This is a huge deal for the Vikings.

    • 12thMan_Rising

      It is a good deal for Vikings. It’s also a good deal for Seattle. Jennings is a huge step down from Harvin, but the 3 picks mitigate that difference.

      I think that Seattle, with the roster they have right now, will get more out of Harvin than they would out of Jennings and the picks. that 3rd rounder likely would have a tough time getting on the field.

      Same isn’t true for the Vikings. Harvin is a luxury they don’t need, and the draft picks will make a big difference for their overall talent.

  • Hawks fan

    Cliff Avril there buddy! :)

  • Matthew

    Cliff Avril there buddy….don’t delete my post cause u don’t know a lick of football.

    • Matthew

      Mabey you should try 12.8% harder next time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wludford Warren Ludford

    Of course there is also the fact that he could end up being either injured or a PITA in the locker room and most likely will be both from time to time.

  • ricefield

    Nice comparison of 3 of the top free agent WRs. Harvin does add more to the offense than just catching pass. For whatever reason Vikings management and Harvin had problems. Hopefully a new start like Lynch.

    • 12thMan_Rising

      Part of it was that Harvin doesn’t respect Ponder as a QB. Led to most of his problems with Minnesota. No such concern in Seattle.

  • Hawkman54

    Very Good job. I wish there were more articles of this nature . Facts are GREAT!