Over the last week, the Vikings have made a couple of important decisions that have fans and media alike debating their wisdom. First was their decision to pick up the final option year (2014) of head coach Leslie Frazier's contract. Second was to come out publicly and say they have "no intent" of trading their emotionally and competitively charged receiver, Percy Harvin.
Both of those decisions, while they can debated skillfully on both sides of the argument, were the right moves.
First, Harvin, which seems to be a bigger hot-button topic. Whether you believe general manager Rick Spielman's words or not, saying they have no intention to trade Harvin, they likely have been fielding phone calls with teams gauging interest. They can put out word they aren't interested in trading Harvin, which could actually drive up the compensation other teams are willing to pay.
The issue for the Vikings, however, is they would likely get their best price for Harvin before the draft. In the next month, teams will get a feel for the free-agent market at wide receiver. Want a top slot guy? Harvin and New England's Wes Welker, a free agent, are the top options, and Harvin has the added attraction of being younger and offering more versatility – in addition to being one of the best slot receivers in the league, he is also one of the most dangerous kickoff returners, averaging 35.9 yards on 16 returns last year before getting hurt.
Of course, his physical style of play and volatile attitude will keep inquiring teams cautious and they would surely want to work out the parameters of a contract extension with Harvin before trading for him. Which all makes this option most logical: The Vikings should be patient and only accept a first-round offer, even if that is unlikely to come because of those aforementioned issues – an expensive extension, an injury history and a pattern of run-ins with coaches.
It may seem risky to wait and call the bidders' bluff, but if they don't move Harvin, they could also call his bluff on a potential holdout. For whatever attitude issues there may be, Harvin is a one competitive son of a gun and it's unlikely he would really want to hold out until midseason and lose salary while incurring fines. Even if they can't come to terms on an long-term amicable contract, Harvin may decide to play out the final year of his rookie deal at $2.9 million – almost twice what he was originally scheduled to make in 2013 because of incentives met in 2012. The beauty then would be that if the Vikings lose him to a big-money deal in free agency, they might still be able to get as much as a third-round compensatory pick the following year.
If it all plays out that way, they would be getting another year out of Harvin and still getting a mid-round pick as compensation. It's not as good as getting a first-round pick this year, but that offer may never come because of the risks involved with him. So the Vikings might have to settle for a second- or third-round pick or hope to have his talent on the team for a final year and hope for the best they can get with a compensatory pick, making the patient approach the right approach.
It's a similar situation with Frazier. Although he could make the argument that he deserved a long-term extension of his contract, it makes perfect sense for the Vikings to wait and see how the 2013 season goes. They already feel Frazier and his coaching staff are accomplished at developing young talent, but why not wait and see if they can continue to build on the momentum of 2012 and determine if they can take the team to the next level with the current players having another year of experience and adding more starting pieces in the draft.
"Leslie has done an outstanding job here. He's been a great leader of the men down in the locker room," general manager Rick Spielman said on Friday. "We expect him to be our coach for a long time. He's been outstanding at everything from leadership to development of young players, everything we're doing. We're just looking forward to getting ready for next year and anything from a contractual standpoint or anything like that will always be held internal, just like players, we don't talk about player's or coach's contracts."
Spielman said there is no question that ownership and management supports Frazier, and they know with Frazier's sensible approach to nearly everything he won't let the fact that he didn't get a long-term extension fester and become a problem. He is down to earth and it would go against everything he stands for to let his contract become an issue with his performance or his interaction with players.
"Not with Leslie Frazier," Spielman said. "I don't want to put words, but Leslie Frazier if you know what type of character and what type of person he is and what he stands for, I know, just being with him, as we're getting ready for the (unrestricted free agents) and draft preparation, we're very excited to build off of last year."
Spielman said Frazier and his staff did a "phenomenal" job handling the youth and changes on the team last year, but there was no reason for the Vikings to get ahead of themselves and offer a long-term deal when exercising a fourth-year option on his contract was a possibility. They made that mistake once with former coach Brad Childress and apparently learned there's little risk in waiting another year.
"If you have the money, you can buy a TV at the inmate store and put it in your cell," the former NFL star's producer friend Norman Pardo told the Post. "He's like the Godfather of the prison now."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.