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Percy Harvin Traded: Schneider Succeeds by Admitting Failure

The passenger sitting next to me smiled broadly as she shared stories about Sidney Rice and his entrepreneurial ways. “He probably makes more money from his businesses than he does playing football,” she marveled. Her face soured, however, when I offered the sentiment that it was nice cheering for a team that had so many good men on it. She said most of them were good guys, but “one guy, in particular, is a bad apple.” He separated himself from the team. He had anger issues. He was a bad fit.

The player was Percy Harvin, and the conversation happened on my flight to New York before Super Bowl XLVIII. The woman had an informal role with the team, and her boyfriend worked with them in a more official capacity. It was at least the third time I had heard the same type of story from someone with intimate knowledge of Harvin inside the Seahawks locker room. Just over a year removed from trading first, third and seventh round picks and signing him to a $67M contract, Pete Carroll and John Schneider have jettisoned the mercurial Harvin for a conditional pick, said to be a second, third or fourth round selection. It easily becomes the biggest personnel failure in Schneider’s tenure while simultaneously cementing his reputation as a man who places a far higher value on team than on protecting his reputation.

Bad move

I wrote at length last December about the factors that made the trade for Harvin one the Seahawks had to be regretting at the time, and one that faced long odds of ever being worth the price the team paid. That was before the Super Bowl. 
Harvin did play in that game, and was a significant contributor to the win. His fly sweeps and kickoff return were aspects of the Seahawks attack the Broncos simply had no way to prepare for given the lack of film on Harvin in Seattle. He played so well that some thought he would win the Super Bowl MVP trophy. He also was a big part of the Seahawks win in the home opener versus Green Bay. 
There is some small chance the million person march that took over Seattle streets in February would not have happened if Harvin had not played in the Super Bowl. Our collective common sense tells us Seattle would have won that game in a similar fashion without him, but his contributions were irrefutable and that keeps this trade from being a complete failure.
But make no mistake; this was a bad decision by Schneider and Carroll that needs to be acknowledged as such. They broke their own rules by giving up valuable drafts picks and significant guaranteed money. 
This Seahawks team is short on depth, in part, because they did not have a first round pick last year or that third round pick this year. The money committed to Harvin could have been used to keep a player like Golden Tate, but more likely could have helped to secure Walter Thurmond or Henry Melton or DeMarcus Ware or a variety of other options. This team is functioning at a deficit because of that trade, and Schneider must now dig out from under it. 

Twelve-step recovery process always requires step one

Most, maybe all, general managers in the NFL would still have Harvin on their roster given the same circumstances. There is a lot of ego involved in trying to validate their big personnel decisions. It is where relationships are strained behind closed doors with the GM and the coaches. It is where good young players are blocked from developing in order to justify a bad decision. It happens all the time.
Schneider made his team less talented and announced a big mistake in one move. Nobody wakes up in the morning eager to do either of those things, let alone both. But he also sent the message to everyone in the organization, and across the league, that nothing will stop him from making the best decision for the team. 

In a league where teams are justifying coddling players who have been arrested for beating pregnant women, Seattle had traded one of their most talented players simply because he was a bad teammate.

No laws were broken. No public drama. Just an excommunication. Talent does not earn you a free pass in Seattle.
Quick aside: 
It is somewhat ironic that there have been so many rumors of a troubled San Francisco locker room this year, but it is Seattle that makes a move to restore chemistry. Maybe the source of the unrest in San Francisco is not as easy to remove. A coach perhaps? 

The football side

Harvin has abilities that nobody else in the NFL has. Fooling yourself into believing the Seahawks are a more dangerous team without him than they were with him is pointless. Harvin is like a next-generation weapon of mass destruction. A team that can figure out how to incorporate his talents can cause serious damage in the league. A team that cannot deploy the full yield on the field will feel the shockwaves inside the locker room.
There is no nobody in the Seahawks receiving corps that strikes fear in opposing defenses. Teams talked about how important it was to slow down Tate last year. Harvin was the focal point this year. The exciting part is that the void creates space for other players to grow. 
Doug Baldwin has more to offer than the team has taken advantage of. Jermaine Kearse is better than his last game. Ricardo Lockette has made some nice plays. But the players who represent a chance to go from zero-to-hero are Kevin Norwood and Paul Richardson.
The rookie receivers have combined for one catch and seven yards. Richardson was a dynamic playmaker in college, but that explosion has been less apparent so far in the pros. He was ahead of Norwood in camp because of injury. Both are now healthy, and there is a need for a new receiver to step forward. My money is on Norwood, but admittedly, that is based on a single practice. 
Another player who may benefit in an indirect way is Christine Michael. He is a dynamic kick returner and has the most explosive playmaking ability of anyone left on the Seahawks roster. It is worth noting, however, that the team has made comments about his maturity as well. This move should get his attention, or he may be the next big talent suiting up elsewhere.
For now, the Seahawks have to get better by being more cohesive and reliable. They have to be able to rely on one another and claw for every yard. I like that Seahawks team.

Looking ahead

The Jets will pay Harvin’s salary the rest of this year. Assuming Seattle does not spend that money elsewhere, it will rollover to next year, effectively increasing the team’s salary cap. They will still have what is called a dead money charge for the pro-rated portion of Harvin’s signing bonus. What this effectively means is that the Seahawks rollover from this year will allow them to spend more money on players next year (and in the future) than they would have if Harvin was still with the team.
That can translate into free agent signings. It can translate into keeping more of their core together like K.J. Wright, Byron Maxwell, James Carpenter, Cliff Avril and others. Even another year of Marshawn Lynch becomes more likely. Keep in mind that a guy like Kevin Williams was signed for $2M. Gaining over $6M to spend next year is significant. 
Getting another draft pick also cannot be ignored, especially if it ends up being a second round selection. 
Those are all future considerations. This team is 3-2, with 11 games left to play. There should be far more clarity about how they will attack you on offense. We will hopefully see Russell Wilson return to being the best deep passer in football, Baldwin making tough, clutch catches, and at least one new threat emerge from the trio of Norwood, Richardson and Michael. Lynch will be a more central figure again. 
They may be better quickly and have more consistent results, but have a lower ceiling.  Moves like this one cannot be viewed in isolation. This team is after multiple Super Bowls over the next 3-5 years. That is the only measure. Removing a tumor initially leaves a gaping hole, but gives the survivor a chance to live on and flourish. It is the next chapter in the fascinating story of this franchise’s attempt to be the next NFL dynasty.

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