Harvin, 27, who played just five games with the Bills last season before being placed on injured reserve, informed the Bills that he is retiring, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Thursday.
The Vikings' first-round pick in 2009, Harvin took the league by storm as a rookie. More than 1,100 kick-return yards, two kick-return touchdowns, 790 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns made him a household name and a go-to fantasy stud -- and earned him offensive rookie of the year and Pro Bowl nods.
He was destined to be a star. Harvin topped his receiving stats in 2010 and again in 2011, setting career highs with 87 catches for 967 yards and six touchdowns. But bubbling beneath the surface were tensions between him and Vikings management, leading Harvin to request a trade in 2012.
After an ankle injury ended his 2012 season after nine games, Minnesota granted Harvin's wish in 2013, shipping him to Seattle. The Seahawks dumped $18.3 million into Harvin and in a season-and-a-half got only six games, four catches and locker room unrest in return. After altercations with teammates Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate, Harvin was traded yet again -- this time to the Jets halfway through the 2014 season.
Rex Ryan gave Harvin his last chances in the NFL -- both in New York and again in Buffalo -- but ultimately the hip injury proved too much to overcome. His early promise with the Bills evaporated when, by October, Harvin grew frustrated with his hip and a knee injury. When the Bills flew to London for a game against the Jaguars in mid-October, Ryan told reporters he didn't know where Harvin was. He found a home on injured reserve soon after.
Bills general manager Doug Whaley said at the NFL owners meetings last month that he was open to Harvin, then an unrestricted free agent, returning to Buffalo. It wouldn't have been at much more than the veteran-minimum salary. Harvin's three-year deal signed a year ago, which automatically voided after last season, already left the Bills with $2 million in dead money against their 2016 cap. With his injury history, Harvin wasn't going to find many suitors willing to fork over guaranteed money in free agency.
Harvin's potential to contribute would have been a nice addition to a Bills wide receiver corps that is full of uncertainty after Sammy Watkins, but it's not as if Buffalo had him penciled into their plans and now his retirement will throw them off. The Bills re-signed once-promising wideout Leonard Hankerson this offseason and they could target a receiver in the draft. Anything from Harvin would have been a bonus.
That bonus won't be coming. Harvin's career is over. He leaves a complicated legacy that includes some eye-popping plays and the unwavering support of Ryan, yet two teams, the Vikings and Seahawks, decided Harvin's potential wasn't worth the frustration of his personality. Ryan lauded Harvin's toughness, yet his durability always was in question. There was no doubting Harvin's talent, yet the longevity just wasn't there.