NFL free agency officially begins Tuesday (tomorrow) at 4 PM ET, but some news with major ramifications on the NFC North broke on Monday. And it wasn't in the form of a signing/cut, but rather a trade (and trades are also frequent at this time of the year as teams would of course rather get draft picks/players back instead of just cutting players if possible).

The Minnesota Vikings have traded star wide receiver Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for a 2013 first round pick, a 2013 seventh round pick, and a "middle-round pick" in 2014. The Seattle Times' Danny O'Neill tweeted that the 2014 pick is expected to be a third-rounder.

Harvin had been unhappy in Minnesota, reportedly in regards to the coaching staff (particularly head coach Leslie Frazier), the front office, and even the quarterback play of Christian Ponder. Yahoo's Jason Cole wrote on Monday that Harvin's lack of confidence in Harvin was the final straw for the Vikings:

According to two sources, the straw that broke the Vikings' back with Harvin is when he bemoaned the fact that quarterback Christian Ponder, a 2011 first-round pick, was not good enough. That came even though Ponder consistently fed Harvin the ball.
Additionally, Harvin wanted a contract extension paying him at least $10 million per year, and there were reports he would hold out (potentially for the first 10 games of the 2013 season) if a deal was not reached. And even the contract numbers met what he was looking for, it's possible he would've still been unhappy anyway due to the coaching staff and Ponder.

So, it's quite understandable as to why the Vikings finally decided they'd had enough of dealing with Harvin, and made the trade before free agency began so that they could make a run at a wide receiver or two to replace Harvin's production. The problem is, I don't see anybody replacing what Harvin did for them.

Before suffering a a season-ending injury in week nine, Harvin had 62 receptions for 677 yards and three touchdowns. Harvin, who turns 25 in May, was also (arguably) the most explosive kick returner in the NFL up to that point of the season, returning 15 kicks for 574 yards and a touchdown. Oh, and he also had 22 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown. In 2011, he had 52 carries for 345 yards and two touchdowns.

The 5'11", 185-pound Harvin can line up at any wide receiver spot and perform well, can carry the ball out of the backfield for quality yards, and is an elite kick returner. You could've argued that he was a more valuable player than anybody in the NFL in 2013. Yes, even as valuable (well, close, anyway) as superstar running back Adrian Peterson was for them through that point of the season. Oh, and Adrian is not very happy about the trade, by the way:
The Vikings will surely try hard to add a wide receiver like Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings through free agency, but nobody in free agency will be able to quite replicate the production Percy Harvin provided for them. Again, Harvin did much more than just play the role of wide receiver. He was frequently in the backfield, he'd line up in the slot, he'd line up outside, he was a dynamic kick returner, etc, etc.

And say the Vikings got a Mike Wallace- He's a burner known for being the best deep ball guy in the game... what does it matter if you have an exceptional deep ball guy if you don't have a quarterback that can throw the deep ball well? Harvin was perfect for Ponder because he was able to turn those routes under 15 yards into huge plays. Wallace's abilities would not be able to utilized with the Vikings as much as they would be with most NFL quarterbacks.

The draft haul the Vikings got back is nice and they'll now have four picks in the top 83 of the 2013 NFL Draft. They'll surely go out and get a wide receiver or two in free agency, the draft, trades, etc. But, they're going to greatly miss what Percy Harvin brings to the table, in so many areas.

And the Bears most certainly won't miss having to face him and gameplan for him twice a year.

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