Harvin is a unique and dynamic play-maker and Idzik’s measured approach to acquiring players left the Jets perfectly positioned to trade for a player like Harvin and take on his salary. But with Idzik gone will the new regime of Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles want Harvin to stay?
There’s no doubt that, strictly from a talent/on-field point, Harvin is a player that could help any team. But with Harvin the questions are, can he stay healthy? Is he someone teammates want to play with or can he divide a locker room? And as great as he is at what he does, he’s not a typical receiver that teams can stick on the outside and run every route in the tree, so is he really worth the money he is scheduled to make?
These are all things that Maccagnan and Bowles will have to discuss amongst themselves and determine what they want to do with Harvin. Idzik traded a conditional draft pick for him that will be a fourth-round pick if Harvin is on the Jets roster on the 10th day of the new league year, March 19, and a sixth-round pick if the Jets release him before then.
The Jets have three options for what to do with Harvin.
1) They could keep him and his current contract exactly as it is and give up a fourth-round pick to the Seahawks.
2) They could keep him and rework his contract to bring the cap number down a bit but give him some guaranteed money to offset the salary change, they
would still have to give up a fourth to the Seahawks.
EDIT: Apparently they can not release Harvin and then just re-sign him a couple of days later to save the fourth-round draft pick. As ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini explains “What if the Jets try to circumvent the draft-pick upgrade by cutting him before March 19 and re-signing him at a later date? Sorry that won’t work. In other words, if they cut him March 18 and re-sign him at any point before the second day of the draft (May 1), they owe a fourth-rounder to the Seahawks.”
3) Or they could simply release him, let him go elsewhere and just surrender their sixth-round pick.
Harvin’s current contract has him scheduled to make $10.5 million next season, $9.9 million in 2016, $9.95 million in 2017 and $11.15 million in 2018. That is a lot of money for Harvin but not a single penny of it is guaranteed. So, the Jets could release him tomorrow with no cap hit or they could keep him on the current contract until they no longer want him (whether because of injuries, lack of production or becoming a locker room distraction) and release him and immediately clear his money from the cap with no penalty.
So, while they would be slightly overpaying Harvin over the next three years (there’s about a .01 percent chance Harvin ever sees that $11.5 million salary in 2018), Harvin’s value is probably around the $7-8 million a year range, they would do so with the incentive to keep him playing the good teammate and protect themselves from injury. With his injury history and concerns with him possibly becoming a problem in the locker room this would be a good trade for both Harvin and the Jets.
But one of the questions Maccagnan will have to ask himself is, is keeping Harvin under his current contract worth giving up a fourth-round pick instead of a sixth-round pick? Maccagnan knows how valuable mid round picks can be, is Harvin and his potential baggage worth a fourth instead of a sixth?
If the answer is no and Maccagnan decides he values that fourth-round pick more than Harvin then the Jets will certainly release him. Of course they could release him to save the fourth and try and re-sign him after free agency starts but then they run the risk of losing Harvin to someone else, maybe even an AFC East rival. Rex Ryan was absolutely smitten with Harvin during their time here and if Harvin became available you can bet Ryan will be banging the table trying to convince Bills management to sign him.
If Maccagnan simply wants no part of Harvin then he will release him, let him go anywhere else and settle for losing a sixth-round pick. But in my humble opinion that would be the wrong move.
Harvin has a reputation, dating back to his college days at the University of Florida, as a headache for coaches and in the locker room. I have no clue what really happened with the Gators, Vikings and the Seahawks but it’s just as easy to find former teammates who speak about Harvin with glowing praise as it is to find people who have negative things to say about Harvin. The difference is the praise comes from people willing to put their name on the record and the negatives come from, mostly, anonymous sources who of course could be anybody.
All I can tell you is what Harvin was like during his time with the Jets last season and not only was he great with the media, carefully avoiding the constant barrage of trap questions, but he quickly fit right into the locker room and his teammates genuinely liked and respected him. The week before the last game in Miami I asked, off the record, 10 different players if they wanted Harvin to return last year and everyone single one said absolutely yes with zero hesitation. A couple players wondered why I would even ask, “why wouldn’t we want him back?” They asked me.
Could that have just been a product of Harvin being on his best behavior? Of course, but it also could mean that he’s not nearly as bad a teammates and person that his former teams, who had to sell their fan base on the reason for the trades, made him out to be.
The injuries are definitely a concern and yes he is not a true outside receiver. Chan Gailey would have to game plan specific ways to use him but when he’s healthy he opens up the entire field for everyone else and can make dynamic plays that few other NFL players can. Harvin can beat defenses from any spot on the field, including special teams, and defenses always have to be aware of him. Harvin can make Geno Smith, or whoever the quarterback is, job easier and help give Eric Decker, Jace Amaro, Jeremy Kerley and Chris Ivory more room to make plays.
Harvin, at least in my opinion, is absolutely worth the difference of a fourth and a sixth and no matter what they decide to do with his contract the Jets will still have a ton of money to spend in upgrading the talent around him.
Keeping Harvin at or around his current cap hit won’t prevent the Jets from signing anyone else and the Jets are unlikely to find a player as good or better than Harvin in free agency.
If Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas became available then obviously it’d be wise to use the money on one of them but there’s almost no chance the Cowboys or Broncos let either of them walk. The one player who could be available and is basically a less physical, but a better traditional receiver, Harvin is Randall Cobb.
The Packers historically don’t overpay for players like Cobb and the progression of rookie Devante Adams could make losing Cobb more tolerable but if Cobb does hit the open market whoever gets him is going to have to be willing to overpay for him as well because he will attract multiple suitors.
So, would you rather risk letting Harvin go and hope to not have to overpay Cobb too much or just keep Harvin? With Harvin the receiver position is much lower on the Jets list of needs than without.
Ideally the Jets still need an outside receiver who can win one-on-one match-ups and jump balls to form a complete receiving core but anyway you cut it the grouping of Decker, Kerley, Amaro and a rookie or two is much better with Harvin than without.