Anyone else notice the ill-trending theme for the Seahawks over the last couple of months?
Percy Harvin’s sudden hip injury is the latest in a string of bad news for the Hawks, who will be without suspended pass rusher Bruce Irvin for the first month, could be without end Chris Clemons (ACL) for the first six weeks and might lose Marshawn Lynch (DUI) to suspension. And that is on top of a half-dozen other injuries of varying concern.
Harvin being injured is no surprise, other than the fact that it happened so soon, and it also is not a season-deflating development for the Seahawks, who won 11 games and nearly advanced to the NFC title game without him last season.
Returning every offensive starter, they certainly have enough receivers to make the expected Super Bowl run — even without Harvin.
But if Harvin’s injury lingers into 2014, it will do more to the Hawks than just make them look dumb for making such a huge gamble on an injury-prone talent. That’s because their receiving corps is quite unsettled beyond this season.
Harvin’s injury was the worst fear for those of us who considered the trade (three picks) and $67 million contract a major gamble. We cautioned against acquiring him well before it happened, and when John Schneider pulled the trigger on his biggest move in four offseasons as general manager, we said Harvin “has to stay healthy, in mind and body, and perform to make it worth it.”
Harvin was a pure luxury addition — a Swiss Army knife the Hawks would like to use in myriad ways to diversify their offense. But they don’t really need him. They went 11-5 without him last season and can do at least that based simply on the development of wunderkind second-year quarterback Russell Wilson and the offensive line.
If Harvin is out for a few months or the season, the Hawks will have to rely on Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin again. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Rice and Tate are decent receivers in Seattle’s run-first offense — they combined for 95 catches and 14 touchdowns last season — and Baldwin (29 catches, three scores in 2012) figures to be more involved if he is healthy this time.
Each of them certainly will be motivated, because not all of them will be back next year.
Rice and Tate are basically competing for the chance to stay in Seattle. But with Harvin making all of that cash, neither of those guys will be paid too highly.
Rice, who has his own frailty issues, is set to count $9.7 million in 2014. It’s a prohibitive number when paired with Harvin’s $13.4 million cap hit.
If Rice struggles with injuries, there is no way the Hawks will keep him at that number. And even if he plays like he did last year, odds are against him getting that money — unless Harvin’s availability is in question and the team is somewhat desperate for a veteran receiver.
Tate is playing for a new contract, and the smart money says he will end up getting it from another team. The Hawks seem unlikely to want to pay him more than perhaps $4 million a year, and if he plays well enough to get another team to go higher, he will be gone.
Baldwin will be a restricted free agent in 2014, but his performance this year will determine how the Seahawks value him.
Harvin is the only one who seems a sure thing to remain on the team — healthy or not.
Harvin is being paid $14.5 million this season, and his $11 million in 2014 reportedly is guaranteed as of the fifth day of that league year (early March). It is fully guaranteed for injury, so if his hip problem (or something else that crops up) is season-ending, they are going to owe him $11 million.
If he passes a physical and the Hawks still decide to let him go before the full salary is guaranteed, they could cut him and actually save $4.8 million against the salary cap (he still would count $9 million). But that is not likely.
Odds are very high that Harvin will be on the team next season, although after 2014 all bets are off, especially if he continues to have injury problems. They could cut ties with him in 2015 and net $5.7 million in cap space (he still would count $7.2 million). At least Schneider had the sense to give the Hawks an early — if expensive — out in case Harvin did not work out.
In the end, Harvin’s injury is just more bad news for a team that has had plenty recently, but — just like the rest of the terrible tidings — it’s not the end of the world and hardly signals the end of their Super Bowl aspirations.