By JJ CONRAD
It started at 5:32 p.m. on Friday, when the first of nine people texted me, in some variation, of the breaking NFL news: Percy Harvin was headed to the New York Jets.
A range of emotions ensued — elation, confusion, intrigue — all while I frantically scoured Twitter for more information.
What’d they give up? What’s his contract like? Why is Seattle giving up on him so soon? The seemingly penny-pinching John Idzik really made this move?
But my biggest question was this: Why now?
Let’s point out the obvious first. At 1-6 and currently on a disastrous six-game losing streak, the Jets aren’t making the playoffs even if Percy Harvin lights the world on fire.
It’s been suggested by several media outlets that this deal must mean the Jets aren’t ready to give up on this season. Maybe to an extent, but I don’t believe that’s why this deal was made. It’s not about this season.
One person texted me suggesting that this must mean that the Jets absolutely believe in Geno Smith.
Slow down, buddy.
By acquiring Percy Harvin, 26, (for a conditional 2015 draft pick) to pair with the reliable Eric Decker and potentially-blossoming rookie tight end Jace Amaro, the Jets are essentially saying to Geno Smith, “Here are some new toys, now show us what you’ve got.”
The excuses for an often-times struggling offense, led by an often-times struggling quarterback are now over.
There should be no more 1-for-6 in the red zone performances (Chicago) or settling for four first-half field goals, when even one touchdown drive in that stretch would have changed the complexion of the game (New England).
The final nine games are now essentially a test for Geno Smith (and for offensive coordinator Marty Morningweg, for that matter), given by general manager John Idzik.
And that makes the remainder of the season that much more interesting for Jets fans, many of whom were still in recovery mode after Thursday night’s heartbreaker in New England when this deal was announced.
The blockbuster trade on Friday now gives Smith a chance to show if he has the potential to be the franchise quarterback the Jets have so desperately needed for decades.
With Harvin, Decker (27 years old), Amaro (22), Jeremy Kerley (25), Chris Ivory (26) and Chris Johnson (29), the Jets — for the first time in years — now have, on paper, a more-than-capable NFL offense with weapons all under 30 to pair with their always above-average defense.
The question is, do they have the quarterback?
The Jets might be on their way to missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year, but from now until the end of the season, we’re going to find out much more about which direction this franchise is going to go this off-season.
These nine remaining games will determine if the Jets will once again be in the market for a quarterback — or if they have their guy.
The Harvin deal also gives coach Rex Ryan a sliver of hope to keep his job. Idzik has (finally) thrown him a bone — although it’s a bone that came about a month too late — but now we’ll see Rex coaching with, without question, his best set of offensive skill players since the 2010 season (the days of the Flight Boys — Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery — and the league’s best offensive line).
It will look good and bad on Idzik’s part if this plays out in the Jets’ favor for the remainder of this season. If the Jets manage to finish .500 (going 7-2 in their final nine games), the commentary will be the following: Great move reeling in Harvin for cheap, but why did John Idzik wait so long to bring in another playmaker?
For a GM who has said on numerous occasions he intends to “build through the draft,” Idzik has shown he’s not afraid to part with those precious draft picks (i.e. receiving Ivory from New Orleans for a 4th-round pick).
The timing of this trade is so peculiar though, as is the fact that Seattle was so willing to give up on the former Florida superstar after appearing in just six regular season games in his short tenure there (although he was an MVP candidate in last year’s Super Bowl).
After being traded from Minnesota to Seattle in March of 2013 (for 1st, 3rd and 7th-round picks, by the way), the Seahawks immediately signed him to a new six-year, $67 million deal with $25.5 million guaranteed. It’s easily one of the highest wide receiver contracts in the NFL, though Seattle didn’t get much return on its investment due to a hip injury last season that kept him out for most of the season.
The good news for the Jets is that all of his guaranteed money has been paid. Harvin, who will be getting $7.1 million from the Jets this year, can be released any time after this season without any further cap penalties.
It’s a very low-risk, high-reward situation for New York — and even has the possibility of Harvin restructuring his current deal (he’s due $10.5 million next season).
Timing-wise, this Harvin deal is similar to when the Jets acquired Braylon Edwards in a trade with the Cleveland Browns in 2009, while the risk involved is reminiscent to that of the deal bringing Santonio Holmes to New York prior to the 2010 season.
Harvin, who has unquestionable talent and game-changing skills, has already now been traded twice in his NFL career before his 27th birthday. Rare for any player, but especially for one of Harvin’s ilk.
There have been leaks of Harvin being a locker room cancer in Seattle, but more on that will likely come out in the coming days. It has also been said that Harvin was just “not a fit” in the Seahawks’ offense.
As a Percy Harvin fantasy owner this year, I can certainly attest to that. It seems he needs plays designed for him — gadget plays, of sorts (both running and receiving) — as opposed to being a more traditional wide receiver who has the ability to get open with simply his route running.
All that being said, Harvin will immediately step in and be the Jets’ most explosive playmaker. When Percy Harvin is healthy and happy, he’s one of the game’s most dynamic players. Problem has been, though, he’s rarely both at the same time.
Less than 24 hours after breaking our hearts in New England, the always-interesting Jets reeled us back in by giving us something to watch going forward.
I don’t know how it’s going to play out, but it sure will be interesting.