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Percy Harvin: 2014 and Beyond

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

One of the first big decisions Mike Maccagnan will have to make as Jets general manager is Percy Harvin's status. Cimini reported the Jets have until March 19. If the Jets retain him, he will cost $10.5 million against the cap, and the team will have to send its fourth round pick to Seattle. If the Jets do not retain him, Harvin will cost zero against the cap, and the team will have to send its sixth round pick to Seattle.

Would he be worth it? Is Harvin worth $10.5 million? The answer is probably not.

That kind of money is rare air at the wide receiver position. Only seven receivers are currently slated to make more in 2015. Harvin is a useful player, but he is not one of the ten best receivers in the league.

His 460 yards from scrimmage is a good number. He certainly provided an upgrade over what the Jets were running out there before him. That kind of production is not worth over $10 million, though. It is also relatively typical of the type of production Harvin provides. Despite his star power, he only has a single season with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage.

Percy is a unique player. His uniqueness is that he has carved out an above average career as a wide receiver due almost entirely to his speed and natural athletic ability. He has a gift for making big plays with the ball. In a league where everybody is fast and athletic, simply beating tacklers is not easy, but he does that. Harvin lacks many traditional wide receiver skills. He is not a crisp route runner at all. He doesn't win with size or physicality. For all of his athletic prowess, he lacks deep speed and is not particularly adept at winning contested balls.

Since 2012, 97 of his 114 receptions (85%) have been caught within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. You dump the ball to Percy and let him make a play. He isn't beating coverage. He isn't outfighting people for the ball. He is not at all a deep threat. Percy has a grand total of 4 catches that traveled over 20 yards in the air since that 2012 season.

This isn't to say Harvin is ineffective, but it shows his limits. Let's compare apples to apples, though. A big play is a big play whether a receiver catches the ball at the line of scrimmage and breaks a 20 yard run or catches a ball thrown 20 yards down the field. Is Percy one of the top playmakers in football?

Harvin gets a number of carries so let's count his big runs as big receptions. Let's leave out 2013 when he was hurt most of the year.

Year 20+ yard receptions and runs Number of players in the NFL with more 20+ yard receptions
2009 14 19
2010 14 18
2011 19 8
2012 9 55
2014 7 73

People talk about Harvin's unique skillset and his ability as a playmaker. Unique doesn't necessarily mean better, though. I hear people say things like, "top five playmaker," to describe Harvin, but even at his best he really wasn't. He was a pretty good one, not the best in the league. It is also worth noting there has been a decline in his production over the last few seasons.

It comes down to Harvin's limitations. This isn't to say he is a bad player, but the things he doesn't bring to the table limit his effectiveness. There are a number of receivers who can be explosive running after a catch near the line who can also beat defenders on deep passes.

I think Percy makes an offense better, but the effect can be easily overstated. Just look at the Jets. This year they played eight games with him and eight without him. For all of the talk about Harvin having a dynamic effect on the offense and opening things up for others, the Jets scored 158 points in the games without him against 125 points in the games with him.

This goes back to what he can't do. Can Harvin break a big play? Yes. Does the defense always have to keep an eye on him? Yes. Can I fake a sweep or a screen to him, get the defense moving in the wrong direction, and create an opening on the other side of the field? Yes.

Does facing him radically alter the way a defense approaches the game? Not to a large extent. A Dez Bryant impacts a play on every single route he runs. Even if he isn't getting the ball, the defense has to dedicate extra resources to stopping him. Percy's limitations running conventional routes does a lot to decrease that effect. He needs the ball in his hands outside the normal flow of the offense to make an impact. You have to forcefeed him the football.

Again, this does not make him useless. He still is a weapon and can be a valuable part of an offensive attack. We come back to the price, though. Money and resources actually are things.

Harvin probably provides around $6 to $7 million of value. You might say it's no big deal to overpay him. Here's the thing. What if the Jets could use that $10.5 million to get $10.5 million of value? They wouldn't necessarily need somebody to replicate Harvin's role. They could upgrade in other areas. Maybe they could get a pair of guards and a back like C.J. Spiller. The guards would mean there would be less of a need for a top receiver because the quarterback would have more time to throw, and the receivers on the team would have extra time to get open. The back could lessen the need to throw to a guy like Harvin. Maybe they could use it to rebuild the secondary and require the offense to produce less points. There are endless combinations. I think it is safe to say the money could be better spent.

What if Harvin is willing to restructure to around $6 million. The problem is with the pick. I can get another player or players to provide $6 million of value and keep that early fourth round pick, which has a real chance of being used on a valuable piece. Do I want $6 million in value or $6 million in value plus a fourth round pick?

I feel like Harvin would almost have to take a deal below market value to compensate the Jets for losing that pick. I don't see that happening. It isn't great to lose $6.5 million that could have been rolled over and a sixth round pick for Harvin to have never played a snap in a meaningful game with the Jets, but those resources are gone either way. Is it wise throwing even more at Harvin? Probably not.