Reports of Seahawks schism emerge after Harvin is dealt to Jets
After the trade was first reported by FOX Sports' Jay Glazer on Friday afternoon, details came in a fast and furious fashion regarding Harvin's inability to mesh with his teammates and become part of the overall plan in an organic fashion. More than that, in fact; Harvin reportedly let his anger issues get the best of him on more than one occasion in the company of his teammates, and that led to the Seahawks looking for a trade partner long before the deal actually happened.
Bob Condotta and Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times reported late Friday that Harvin, who the Seahawks acquired in a trade with the Vikings on March 11, 2013, was never a fit in the locker room, and despite his obvious physical gifts, the organization was "ready to move on."
According to the Times, Harvin had an altercation with former Seahawks and current Lions receiver Golden Tate before Super Bowl XLVIII that ended with Tate receiving a black eye. A source told the Times that Harvin had also tangled with receiver Doug Baldwin before the team's final preseason game against the Raiders this season, and that fight resulted in a cut on his chin. Both Harvin and Baldwin were excused from practice that week, and Harvin didn't travel to the game for what was deemed to be "personal reasons."
And in Seattle's 30-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, Harvin reportedly refused to go back in the game when the team clearly could have used him, and Harvin was not injured enough to sit out.
Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report spoke with several Seahawks players after the trade. One of those players told Freeman that Harvin was "daring the Seahawks to dump him with his actions" and that there was a pro-Harvin and anti-Harvin faction developing in the locker room.
In retrospect, the trade offers some context for some of Doug Baldwin's comments following Seattle's loss to Dallas.
"It’s a tough orchestration of the whole thing; you’re really not trying to keep everyone happy—when we’re happy, it’s because we’ve won ... That’s where the bottom line is, that’s where every guy is going to be happy and understand, but there are so many guys with so much talent, we’re trying to use them the best way that we can," Baldwin said.
"We do want to get them all involved in some way or another but I’ve said it before, we’ve come out of games where a guy has zero [touches] and the next game he has seven. We just kind of have to roll with that, and sometimes that’s just the way it goes with how the defense is playing us and where the ball goes at times."
Clearly, there were more than pure football reasons for this trade. Harvin hadn't been effective this season as offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell seemingly tried to shoehorn him into the game plan, but this team gave up a first-round, third-round and seventh-round pick for Harvin in 2013, and then signed him to a six-year, $67 million contract extension with $25.5 million guaranteed. Harvin missed all but 68 snaps last season with a hip injury, and though he was a dynamic factor in Seattle's Super Bowl win, Seahawks coaches were clearly excited to see what a healthy Harvin could do in their offense throughout an entire season.
The Seahawks will take on about $8 million in dead salary cap money in 2015 as certain aspects of Harvin's overall contract escalate on their end. And, as SI.com's Andrew Brandt points out, the Seahawks could have kept Harvin this season and released him before the 2015 season with no future cap charge. They'll save about $40 million over the life of what would have been the remainder of Harvin's agreement, but from Seattle's perspective, right or wrong, this was a case of a team betting big on a player with previous issues and bailing before things fell further apart.
If Harvin had been simply an overpaid, underperforming player (and he was: 22 catches for 133 receiving yards and no touchdowns at an $11 million base salary isn't exactly fair market value), the Seahawks surely would have tried to work things out.
My own impression from the team's locker room, which I've covered since 2010, was that Harvin kept to himself and had his own priorities, and that seemed to get pretty far up the noses of some players. Baldwin, an undrafted receiver who made his way in the league with a giant chip on his shoulder, seemed to be particularly annoyed with Harvin's presence. Nobody ever doubted Harvin's physical gifts, and it was appreciated when he did make plays, but there was never a sense of a real fit between Harvin and the team.
"We have to quit BS-ing ourselves," Baldwin said after the loss to Dallas. "We've got to be real with ourselves. When we get in the meeting room, we've got to actually pay attention to things and not blow smoke up our tails that everything's going to be all right. Things aren't going right. Pay attention to things that we're not doing right and correct them."
That odd fit certainly made its way to the field, where a seeming overreaching emphasis on getting Harvin the ball affected Seattle's run-first power football philosophy and started to erode the team's identity.
The ball will now go more to Baldwin, and to Jermaine Kearse, and one would think to rookie receivers Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood, who have barely seen any playing time this season. And perhaps, with less of a circus in town, the 3-2 Seahawks can get back to the business of winning football games in their preferred fashion.
As for the 1-6 Jets, whose Thursday night loss to the Patriots showed once again that this is a team desperate for legitimate targets, it's a risk/reward move that general manager John Idzik (who was formerly Seattle's salary cap manager) will live or die by, in a professional sense. They have the rest of this season to decide if Harvin is worth the trouble, and can then back out with no future salary cap consequences.