After the Seahawks traded for Percy Harvin in March, Pete Carroll made sure to emphasize that Harvin would be just one piece of a talented receiving corps; that Harvin "would mix with Golden Tate and Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin", as Carroll said during a press conference to announce Harvin's arrival.
And yet ...
"He is such a threat," Carroll said during that same press conference, a few months back. "He's just a gifted ballplayer. He feels the game so well. ... It's a tremendous spread of talent that he brings to our club. We will get the ball in his hands a number of ways."
This was more than just a shot-in-dark move for the Seahawks. As with MLB teams that will spend the next week hunting for a top-flight starting pitcher or an elite bat, Seattle made the Harvin trade with the belief that he could get the team over the top, both in the NFC West and in the Super Bowl race.
For all their depth at receiver, Seattle managed just two touchdowns of longer than 40 yards from that position in 2012, one each by Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice. The team's longest pass play of the season, a 67-yarder, came courtesy of tight end Anthony McCoy. Quarterback Russell Wilson and a creative offense helped move the Seahawks into the NFL's upper-echelon, but there was a distinct lack of game-breaking ability on the roster.
Harvin was supposed to change all that. Heck, he still may change all that, despite reports Thursday of Harvin possibly requiring surgery for a torn labrum in his hip.
Seattle signed Harvin to a six-year, $67 million contract (with $25 million guaranteed) in the immediate aftermath of the trade for him. Had there been any hesitation over Harvin's fit in this offense or his health or his approach to the game, the Seahawks no doubt would have held off on that commitment. They likely would have avoided the trade in the first place, too.
Any minor hesitation they may have had, though, was washed away by the ocean of possibilities Harvin created, on paper, for Seattle's offense. Not only did Harvin theoretically upgrade the passing attack, he added another weapon for Seattle's option run game, alongside Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and rookie Christine Michael. He was being considered as a return man, as well, a role in which he thrived during his time with Minnesota.
Which offensive player would step up, aside from Lynch, was a bit of a game-to-game mystery for Seattle in 2012. Harvin, on the other hand, produced at least 100 total yards in 34 of 54 games in his Vikings career; he had 50-plus combined yards rushing and receiving in 50 of those outings. When he was on the field, few players in the NFL were as consistent a headache for opposing defenses as Harvin.
Therein lies the rub -- when he was on the field. Even though Carroll and GM John Schneider insisted that they had no concerns about Harvin's prior medical issues, that was the one variable that threatened to turn this trade into a bust for Seattle.
And make no mistake: Should Harvin have to go under the knife and/or find himself sidelined for an extended period of time, Seattle's chances of capturing the Vince Lombardi Trophy this season diminish. Remember, the Seahawks were 8-0 at home last season and 3-5 on the road. Making the playoffs alone may not be enough, then. This Seattle team wants for all the world to get to the postseason and have the NFC road travel through CenturyLink Field.
Can the Seahawks accomplish those goals without Harvin's assistance? Sure. This was a very good team last year, and it should be again. Harvin, however, could be the catalyst for a jump from "very good" to "great." The Seahawks knew that when they traded for him, and it's precisely why the entire franchise is holding its breath right now.