Before free agency overtakes us here at Kick Ass Blog, a few words on the trade that sent Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks today.
Both myself (here) and Pacifist Viking (here) have made our feelings known on Harvin's worth to the Vikings over the past few months. But he's gone now and so Minnesota Vikings fans are left to figure out how the team is going to replace him and build on a surprisingly successful 2012 season.
One way to do that is to acquire players through free agency and with the draft picks they got from Seattle in the trade to make yourself better at other positions. That way Harvin's production on offense and returning kickoffs is offset. That could mean - on the defensive side of the ball - adding more talent in the secondary or at linebacker or defensive tackle or defensive end (the team could stand to do all four) that makes the Vikings defense harder to score on and produces more punts and turnovers that gives the Vikings offense shorter fields to work with or requires the unit to score less points in order for the Vikings to win. That's not an easy blueprint to success, and it requires that Vikings general manager Rick Spielman be right on a lot of his draft picks, plus any free agent signings he makes over the next couple of weeks. However, this is partly what the Vikings must do.
Offensively, Spielman has a considerable amount of work to do. In four seasons with the Vikings, Harvin averaged 70 catches, 825 yards, seven touchdowns and 27.9 yards per kickoff return per season. Jarius Wright could pick up some of the receiving slack - his 2012 numbers over seven games would translate to about 50 catches, 708 yards and five touchdown catches over a 16 game season. But the plan was that Harvin, plus an improved Wright, plus a hotshot free agent wide receiver, plus a rookie wide receiver or two would all lead to an improved Vikings passing game in 2013 - one that could at least keep up somewhat with what Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay will feature next season.
Now Wright is the top Viking receiver under contract and the team faces a lot of competition for a pretty thin group of free agent wide receivers. This year's draft is a deep one for wide receivers, but rookie wideouts typically don't make a big impact in their first year. Is it possible the club's wide receivers could actually be less productive in 2013 than they were in 2012? With Harvin in Seattle and if no significant additions are made through free agency, that will likely be the case.
Of course, a lot could happen between when free agency starts on Tuesday and when the college draft wraps up in April. But we all knew the Vikings had to improve their wide receiving corps - even with Harvin on the roster - to stay competitive in the NFC North and the NFC. Yes, the Vikings got themselves some assets by trading Harvin (something they seem to have been forced to do), but improving the team's greatest weakness also got a lot more challenging.