The Vikings felt they had little choice but to accommodate Stefon Diggs’ request for a trade this month when they sent the disgruntled wide receiver to Buffalo for four draft picks, including the Bills’ first-rounder and two others in this year’s draft.
It wasn’t the first time the Vikings have traded a high-profile player either because he wanted out or because there was an overwhelming feeling that it was time for a divorce. This doesn’t mean that all of these moves turned out to be bad ones, but it does mean a pretty good player (or even an outstanding one) was lost.
Today, we give you Part III of high-profile players the Vikings dealt (not guys who left as free agents, were released or near the end) and how it worked out. This time it’s the trade of wide receiver Percy Harvin.
Time with Vikings: Harvin fell to the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2009 draft in large part because of off-the-field concerns that included a positive test for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine. The Vikings felt that Harvin’s athletic ability would outweigh any character issues and it was clear they would take him, if he remained available. Harvin’s impact was immediate as he caught a touchdown from new Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in a season-opening victory in Cleveland. Harvin finished his rookie season with 60 receptions for 790 yards and six touchdowns, 15 rushes for 135 yards and 42 kickoff returns for 1,156 yards and two touchdowns. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year as the Vikings advanced to the NFC title game. Harvin battled illnesses, and migraine headaches, in 2010 but still played in 14 games. After appearing in all 16 games in 2011, Harvin was limited to nine games in 2012 because of an ankle injury that landed him on injured reserve.
What ended Harvin’s time in Minnesota? Harvin and coach Brad Childress had their ups-and-downs (it was a major down when a frustrated Harvin threw a weight in Childress’ direction, fortunately missing) but the final straw might have been when Harvin yelled at Childress’ replacement, Leslie Frazier, during a 2012 loss in Seattle after quarterback Christian Ponder failed to connect with the receiver on a wheel route. Frazier was about as mild-mannered as they come and Harvin yelling at him was an indication that a change of scenery was necessary.
The trade: The Vikings sent Harvin to the Seahawks on March 11, 2013 for first- (25th overall) and seventh-round (214th overall) picks in 2013 and a third-round pick (96th overall) in 2014. The Vikings used the first-round selection on Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes, the seventh-round pick on guard Travis Bond of North Carolina and the third-round pick on running back Jerick McKinnon of Georgia Southern.
How it worked out for the Vikings: This might be one of general manager Rick Spielman’s best trades. Harvin was a gifted player, but it was clear that it was time for him to move on. Spielman got a quality return and used two of the draft picks — the first-rounder on Rhodes and the third-rounder on McKinnon — to find two major contributors. Rhodes was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL for a period under coach Mike Zimmer and spent seven seasons in Minnesota before being released this month. (He has signed with the Colts). McKinnon spent his first four seasons as a solid backup running back with the Vikings before signing with San Francisco. He rushed for a career-high 570 yards and three touchdowns in 2017, but has yet to play for the 49ers. Bond never played for the Vikings but did appear in two games with Carolina in 2013.
How it worked out for Harvin: Harvin was a part of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl championship team in the 2013 season — he returned the opening kickoff of the second half 87 yards for a touchdown in a 43-8 victory over Denver — but he had played in only one regular-season game because of injuries after signing a new contract. Harvin, who opened up about the anxiety he dealt with during his playing career in a 2018 Sports Illustrated story, split 2014 between the Seahawks and the Jets before spending his final two years with the Buffalo Bills. He announced his retirement in March 2017.
The verdict: Harvin might qualify as one of the most electric players to put on a Vikings jersey, and his immediate production in 2009 made him a key part of one of the NFC’s best teams that season, but the decision to trade him and Spielman’s ability to make good use of at least two of the picks he got makes the deal a big win for the Vikings.
Next up: Chris Doleman to the Falcons