Lost in the shuffle during the signing frenzy on the opening day of NFL free agency was the completion of the Seattle Seahawks' trade with the Minnesota Vikings for Percy Harvin. Minnesota received Seattle's 2013 first-round pick (25th overall), a 2013 seventh-round pick and a 2014 third-round pick. Harvin, who was scheduled to make $2.755 million in the final year of his five-year rookie contract, was given a new deal.
Ordinarily when a player signs a new deal with years remaining on his contract, it is valued by the extension years and new money in the deal. That's not necessarily the case with new contracts in trades because the acquiring team is most concerned with the total compensation that it will be paying its new player over the length of the contract.
Harvin received a six-year, $67 million contract from the Seahawks. The deal contains $25.5 million in guarantees, which consists of a $12 million signing bonus, a fully guaranteed $2.5 million base salary in 2013 and an injury guaranteed $11 million base salary in 2014. His 2014 base salary will become fully guaranteed if he is on Seattle's roster on the fifth day of the 2014 waiver period (Feb. 7).
Harvin's guarantees are comparable to the $26 million in guarantees that Dwayne Bowe received from the Kansas City Chiefs in the five-year, $56 million deal that he signed to forego free agency. The $36 million over the first three years of Harvin's deal equals Bowe's first three years of compensation. Harvin's five-year extension average, which is how the agent community will value the deal, is $12.849 million per year.
Harvin adds a new dimension to the Seahawks as arguably the NFL's most dangerous all-around threat. He was tied for the NFL lead with 62 receptions, first in the NFL with 531 yards after the catch, second in kickoff return average (35.9) and second in receiving yards (677) entering Week 9's games last season before he was sidelined for the final seven games of the year with a badly sprained ankle. Harvin's five kickoff returns for touchdowns are the most in the NFL since 2009. Despite having great speed, Harvin hasn't been utilized as a deep threat. He has lined up practically everywhere but primarily been a slot receiver, with a career 11.8 yards average per catch.
Pro Bowl kick returner Leon Washington, who averaged an NFC-leading 29 yards per kickoff return in 2012, became expendable because of Harvin. Seattle saved $2.125 million on the cap by releasing Washington. The Seahawks have $9,826,508 of cap room after factoring in Harvin's $4.9 million 2013 cap number.
The addition of Harvin could have other implications to Seattle's roster. Harvin and Sidney Rice are the NFL's only receiving tandem with contracts averaging more than $8 million per year. Rice, who was Harvin's Minnesota teammate during the 2009-10 seasons, is entering the third year of a five-year, $41 million contract. His $9.7 million 2013 cap number is the NFL's fourth-highest wide receiver cap number and the second-highest on the Seahawks. Rice had a career-best 83 receptions, 1,312 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in his 2009 Pro Bowl season. He hasn't been able to duplicate that success since joining the Seahawks. However, he is Seattle's only experienced big receiver (6-foot-4, 202 pounds) and its best deep threat. Releasing Rice would save the Seahawks $6.1 million on the cap this year.
Also on the contract horizon is Golden Tate, the team's 2010 second-round pick. Since he is in the final year of his rookie contract, the Seahawks would have to decide whether Rice was worth the $8.5 million and $9 million salaries in the last two years of his deal or signing Tate to a less expensive, new long-term contract is a better option.
Tight end Zach Miller could be in jeopardy instead of Rice. He has primarily been a blocking tight end with Seattle since signing a five-year, $34 million contract ($17 million in guarantees) in 2011. That type of money is usually reserved for pass-catching tight ends. His eight catches for 142 yards against the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional playoff round was his most productive game with the Seahawks. In two seasons with Seattle, Miller has caught 63 passes for 629 yards. His combined receiving totals with the Seahawks are less than his 2009 season with the Oakland Raiders in which he had 66 receptions and 805 receiving yards.
Here are the details on Zach Miller's 2013 $10 million salary:
- $4 million of base salary is guaranteed (with an offset)
- $3 million of base salary is roster bonus on March 21 (aka a 10th day of the league year bonus)
- His $11 million cap number is the highest for all tight ends and all Seahawks players
With Harvin operating out of the slot, Miller might not have a significant role as a receiving threat in 2013. I'd expect the club to seek to devote some of Miller's 2013 salary, where he takes a pay cut, in order to better allocate financial resources. At the very least, I'd expect his contract to be restructured to create cap room.
If Seattle releases Miller, it would incur a $3 million cap charge in dead money due to the remaining money left on his signing bonus. There's also the $4 million base salary, which counts unless a team signs Miller to a deal with a base salary equivalent or higher.
Anthony McCoy, who is making $630,000 with a $656,214 cap number in the final year of his rookie deal, is a much cheaper and cap-friendly alternative at tight end.
What's this mean for other receivers?
Harvin's contract sets a new salary standard for slot receivers. Restricted free-agent Victor Cruz's new agent, Tom Condon, will probably use Harvin's deal as a benchmark in contract discussions with the New York Giants. Harvin's deal might be viewed as a market anomaly, much like Adrian Peterson's and Chris Johnson's deals are with running backs. Although Cruz has been a more productive receiver, he isn't the all-purpose threat that can impact a game in different capacities like Harvin. Wes Welker and Danny Amendola didn't help Cruz by signing deals significantly below the five-year contract averaging $7.26 million per year (including $17.7 million in guarantees) that Marques Colston received from the New Orleans Saints in last year's market.
Randall Cobb might be the slot receiver to benefit the most from Harvin's deal because of his versatility. Several of his Green Bay Packers teammates have referred to him as their version of Harvin. Cobb, who is entering the third year of his rookie deal, had a breakout season in 2012. He led the NFL with 2,342 all-purpose yards (combined rushing, receiving, kickoff and punt return yards). He also caught 80 passes for 954 yards with eight touchdowns.
Joel Corry is a former agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertaiment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Before his tenure at Premier, Joel worked for Management Plus Enterprises, which represented Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ronnie Lott.