The cash-strapped Carolina Panthers will barely play in free agency this year due to contracts the organization will need to get off the books. Every organization faces cap casualties, but no team as far over the cap as the Panthers has so little to show for it. Normally it's easy to simply say "c'est la vie" when it comes to cap space, and move on - that is, until there's a clear move that could improve the organization so much, but no money to do it; trading for Percy Harvin would be that move.
When you look at Percy Harvin's history in Minnesota it's far too easy to fall into traps. Looking at his statistics and not seeing a 1,000 yard season, or hearing about his migraine issues and assume he's injury prone - both these assumptions would be wildly off base. With 3,300 yards in his first four years, Harvin is a legitimate big-play receiver; he also has utility around the field, rushing for 345 yards in 2011. In terms of the moniker ‘injury prone', the truth is that he's missed ten games in four years - seven of which came in 2012.
What Harvin would bring to the Panthers is clear: versatility. He's a true future number-one receiver (only 24-years old), has a wealth of kick return experience, and has the chops in the running game to be a deadly compliment to any option plays. Rather than running the option with a speedy running back, throw Harvin back there. How does a defense deal with the possibility of an option play to Harvin, Cam Newton keeping it himself, throwing down field, or throwing to Harvin on the screen? There's no way to adequately cover every option.
Herein lays the problem with ‘reward for loyalty' payment schemes. Carolina are unable to make a trade for Harvin for two reasons: They don't have the $8-10 million-per that he'll require, and they are without the third-round pick the Vikings are coveting. Instead of having Joe Adams and DeAngelo Williams right now, the Panthers could theoretically have Percy Harvin. An aging running back, and a fumble-prone punt returner, rather than a reliable returner and future replacement for Steve Smith - there's little wonder why the Panthers have struggled. Oh, and let's not forget that Harvin has familiarity with Cam Newton from their shared time in Florida.
Yes, this is revisionist history - something I've chided in the past. However, at what point does common sense play a role, so this stops being revisionist history? This is the most WR-rich free agent period in recent memory, and the Carolina Panthers are in need of a future elite receiver. Drafting one is great, but reality is that no position busts more often than wide receivers. The organization should have been aware of the future market when they chose to pay two receivers, and now that Harvin has become available via trade - it stings a little bit more.
Once again the Panthers will need to be creative. No money to spend, no assets to trade - it will be all about the draft. There might be a little bit of money for a mid-level free agent, but that's it. All we can do is imagine how good Percy Harvin would be in this offense - because gut feelings say he would be amazing. Most importantly, Dave Gettleman and Jerry Richardson need to put a stop to loyalty contracts given too early, and without enough foresight. That's the first step to putting the team back on track.