On Monday, the Seattle Seahawks made a big trade for wide receiver Percy Harvin. The generally productive but ever-unhappy receiver comes to the NFC West and the Minnesota Vikings gain Seattle's first-round pick in 2013, a seventh-round pick in 2013 and a mid-round pick in 2014.
Shortly after that, the San Francisco 49ers made a trade with the Baltimore Ravens for wide receiver Anquan Boldin. The primary difference between the two trades, other than the players involved, is the fact that the 49ers only gave up a sixth-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft for their trade.
Both receivers are very good, so why did the 49ers get Boldin for so much cheaper at this point? Well, Boldin was guaranteed to be released by the Ravens at his cap figure of about $6 million. The Ravens wanted to make a trade and it's likely they weren't going to get much more than that. There was talk of the Vikings being interested in a trade, but I'd imagine the Ravens wanted to deal with San Francisco (wonder why).
Now, to be fair, Harvin could have easily been released if a trade wasn't done, but a receiver at his age likely would have pulled some serious cash on the open market. The fact is that Harvin wanted out of Minnesota and the Vikings had no idea what to do at that point. I'd guess that the Seahawks were the only team to offer as much as they did, though.
Why exactly? Well, because Harvin hasn't been that remarkable since joining the NFL. First, you have all of those attitude issues. It's been problem after problem after problem with Harvin. He does and doesn't enjoy his role, he wants to be a wide receiver, he wants to be a running back, then complains when he's not used properly. He holds out, he wants a new contract, he doesn't want a new contract ... you get the picture.
San Francisco may or may not have been interested in Harvin. Don't get me wrong, he's a player I'd want on my team any day of the week for the skillset he could potentially bring to the team, but not at anything remotely close to what Seattle gave up. The kind of deal they made for Boldin is much more San Francisco's speed right now, which suits me just fine.
But Harvin has been more about what he could possibly do than what he has done, and that's been true for all four of the seasons he's been in the NFL. His stats haven't ever been mind-blowing, but they've been pretty good. In his rookie year, Harvin caught 60 passes (of 91 targets) for 790 yards, with six touchdowns. He improved upon that in each of the next two seasons with 868 yards in 2010 and 967 yards in 2011.
But in 2012, there were plenty of issues. Harvin held out, he got injured, he had issues on and off the field but all relating to the team, and he ended up playing in just nine games. He had 677 receiving yards and three touchdowns in those nine games.
That's solid production, definitely the kind of player you want on your team from a stats perspective, provided that he has his head on straight. The problem with Harvin is that we don't know for sure if he does, and putting up a first-round selection for him is rolling the dice in a big, big way.
So who won in the battle of wide receiver trades on Monday? In essence, nobody won the trade battle, given the differences at play here. Boldin is showing near-1,000-yard production, but may not have much left in the tank. Harvin is showing near-1,000-yard production, but could easily go in either direction, and his contract status is still a point of contention.
All that we do know is that the 49ers got great, great value for Boldin. Is it a safe bet to assume that Harvin can put up bigger numbers and be an effective weapon for Russell Wilson in the young quarterback's Sophomore campaign? It sure is, but beyond that, the trades are totally incomparable.
Could the 49ers have gotten more production out of a sixth-round pick than Boldin in 2013? Only if Boldin literally slows down by like 50 percent. It's hard to really picture him being a guy who is useless on the football field. He's a possession receiver who relies on toughness and his hands, and those things should remain
Don't get me wrong, I'd rather have Harvin than Boldin at this point in their careers, but it's all about cost-effectiveness. Could the Seahawks have gotten more production out of the picks they gave up? Only time will tell, at this point.