RENTON, Wash. -- New Seattle Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin, the subject of the biggest trade of the year so far, had a lot of reasons to be happy when he took the stage at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center auditorium on Tuesday afternoon. Harvin had been traded from the Vikings to the Seahawks for Seattle's first- and seventh-round picks in 2013, as well as a conditional mid-round pick in 2014. He was then signed to a new contract -- per multiple reports, he's now in the first year of a six-year, $67 million deal that has $25.5 million in guarantees, and another $11 million in escrow for injury concerns down the road.
That puts the Seahawks on the hook -- it pays Harvin about what Dwayne Bowe and Vincent Jackson will receive through the first three years, and it's the single biggest financial commitment the franchise has ever made to one player. But when head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider joined Harvin on the VMAC stage, any concerns about Harvin's injury history, or his reputation as a bit of a malcontent, seemed very much in the past.
Of course, that generally happens in the honeymoon phase.
"This is a really exciting opportunity for us," Carroll said. "We’re thrilled to get Percy on our football team, and he knows that we brought him in here to play with a bunch of other guys that we really like. As we mix him in with Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, and Doug Baldwin in that position group, it’s really a special opportunity for us to add to our team. I know that he’s already met with Russell Wilson; he was the first guy here in the film room waiting for him. He also met with Sidney here at lunch time today, so they go to hang out and reunite a relationship that they had. It’s a great moment for us and we’re excited for him. We love bringing in football players, we love to compete. There is not a football player that we could find that would compete more and battle more than this guy right here so he’ll fit in just right with us.”
Harvin is now reunited with Rice, who he played with in Minnesota in 2009 and 2010, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who ran the Vikings' offense through that same time period. It's not a coincidence that those two seasons saw Harvin at his happiest -- there's no question that he's a receiver who needs a great quarterback to make himself happy and secure with a team, and the drop from Brett Favre to Christian Ponder appeared to affect Harvin quite negatively. One recent Yahoo! Sports report intimating that Harvin had lost confidence in Ponder was backed up at his first Seattle press conference by the number of Ponder mentions: precisely zero.
On the other hand, Harvin had no trouble connecting Favre and Wilson, Seattle's second-year quarterback prodigy.
"Russell Wilson was texting me from the moment that this thing was put together -- he was already texting me things that we were going to do this offseason," Harvin said. "We’re set to go to California and work out already, and those are just the things that I love. I can tell that the guys here love football, they love it with a passion, and that’s what I’m all about. It’s going to be real enjoyable to come here and work with a whole bunch of guys that love the game who are all in pursuit of one goal.”
Wilson and Harvin both grew up in Virginia, and Harvin was aware of Wilson from way back, but it wasn't until he asked around about his new quarterback that Harvin really bought in.
"I really don’t have words to describe how I feel," Harvin said about his fresh start. "I was talking to Coach Carroll and a lot of the guys, and I told them I haven’t slept in three days just anticipating this opportunity. I’m very blessed to know that this doesn’t come around often to play with an up and coming quarterback like Russell, who guys are comparing preparation-wise to Brett Favre. When I hear that, and hear people comparing him to Brett Favre, I listen. So seeing this opportunity, I’m very, very, very grateful.”
Carroll has been trying to get Harvin on the line since 2005, when he was USC's head coach, and Harvin was quite possibly the top high-school recruit in the country. Harvin's mom wanted him to stay on the East Coast, Carroll said on Tuesday, and Carroll had to wait almost a decade to get his man. When asked how Harvin would be featured in Seattle's already high-velocity offense, Carroll couldn't stop talking about it.
"He is such a threat," Carroll said. "He is a receiver that can run and catch the football as well as anybody, but he has a knack for running with the football after the catch that very few players have. He understands and he feels the game so well that you can play him where you can hand the ball to him, Percy played in the backfield in college, he played in the backfield for the Vikings, he was playing tailback when Adrian Peterson was sitting on the bench at times, and that’s a tremendous spread of talent that he brings to our club. We have a diverse offense, we do a lot of cool things and we’re not going to change a lot of stuff -- we’re just going to add him in and fit in to the things that he does so well to go along and complement with the guys that we already have. He will get the ball in his hands in a number of ways, and he is going to return kicks for us too, so we’re excited about that. He’s a dynamic kick returner, and he lit up when I mentioned special teams to him. He’s all for it, so we’re going to do that too.”
One thing Harvin hasn't had since Tim Tebow was his quarterback at Florida is a quarterback who is a real running threat in option packages. Harvin was nearly unstoppable in Urban Meyer's offense when the Gators won the national championship at the end of the 2008 season, and when I asked him about Wilson's proclivity for the zone option and Pistol schemes, Harvin seemed to welcome a return to his roots.
"It makes us more dangerous," Harvin said, already including himself in the Seahawks' royal "we." "When you have a quarterback who can already run, and you add a multiple guy who can do different things, along with Sid and [Golden] Tate, and you still have Marshawn Lynch, it could get dangerous."
Harvin actually called Tate "Brandon," but he can be forgiven a few first-day jitters.
What's harder to forget and forgive -- at least, it will be for some -- is Harvin's negative history. He was suspended in each of his last two high school seasons for rules violations on and off the field, and he's got a small litany of incidents (both reported and unreported) with the Vikings that added to the perceived risk. From migraines early in his career that some doubted he really had, to recent alleged issues with Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier, Harvin does have enough of a rap sheet to mention. Carroll and Schneider said all the right things about due diligence, and Harvin just brushed the past off when asked about it.
“I had a good four years there," he said of his time in Minnesota. "We had a playoff run, I got to play with Brett Favre. I got to play with the most dominant back in the game in Adrian Peterson, so I got to play with some guys and I’ll keep those [memories] forever. Regarding the last year, I have great respect for everyone in that program, from top to bottom. Yes, we had some bumps in the road, but I respect it, and I feel like they respected me. Me and Coach Frazier were in direct contact this whole time, so me and him still to this day have a great relationship, and he still texts me. It was a good four years, but I’m excited to be here.”
The Seahawks are excited for now. Harvin is excited for now. He's already calling Wilson his "Commander-in-Chief." And if he stays on the straight and narrow, he could be the missing piece that propels the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.
If he doesn't, Carroll and Schneider will be asked a lot of questions for which there are no easy answers.