We're off and I'm not sure there is any turning back now. The "Percy Harvin on the trade block" story is in full swing in NFL media circles and, barring a total denial from the Minnesota Vikings, figures to remain in the headlines for the foreseeable future.
(Actually, in the world of sports trade talk, even a total denial wouldn't suffice. We all know how these things work.)
We spelled out last week the Vikings' complicated situation with Harvin, a 24-year-old playmaker whose off-field behavior has ranged from eccentric to unruly in four years with the team. He is entering the final year of his rookie contract, which means now is probably the time for the Vikings to make their Big Decision on his future.
Coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman both stopped short last week of committing to having Harvin on their team in 2013. A WCCO-Ch. 4 report over the weekend added fuel to speculation that the Vikings will try to trade him, and on Monday our friends at ESPN Insider had already posted a list of possible suitors. (The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers make a lot of sense.)
The post, penned by Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus, notes that transcendent players such as Harvin are rarely traded at this point in their careers. What we've heard to this point might all go down as high-level contract leveraging against a player who is seeking to be among the NFL's highest-paid receivers. Indeed, as ESPN's Adam Schefter says in the video, the Vikings are already short on receivers and would be further weakened if they traded away their best one.
If the Vikings can't find a compromise in negotiations with Harvin, what could they get in return? In the ESPN Insider piece, Monson discussed the possibility of a second-round draft pick, the price for a player considered damaged goods. I agree with Monson's assessment on that price; it would be the steal of the decade in the NFL. If the Vikings take less than a first-round pick for him, we could only conclude that their off-field concerns are deeper than currently contemplated.