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Should the New York Jets bring back Percy Harvin?

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New York Jets fans around the world will be relieved to see the back of the 2014 season, and optimism once again fills the air as we head towards free agency. One of the burning questions that Jets fans will be asking right now is whether they should bring back Percy Harvin.

Harvin made the shock move to the east coast back in October; the Jets giving up a conditional mid-round pick to the Seahawks for the dynamic wideout. He finished the season suiting up eight times for the Jets, and his 29 receptions went for 350 yards, scoring just one touchdown.

At this stage, the new coaching staff of head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan will have enough tape of Harvin to see what he can do in the Jets offense. Whether or not he is the player they want on the roster going forward or not remains unknown.

The Jets’ decision to keep Harvin or to let him go ideally needs to be made by March 19. If they release him before then, they will send a sixth-round draft pick back to Seattle. If they decide to keep him beyond that date, it will be a fourth-round pick. That’s a big difference.

So, should the Jets bring back Percy Harvin for 2015?

What he brings

Percy Harvin is as versatile as they come, to the point where it’s hard to even define the position he plays. While he is labeled as a wide receiver, he brings a lot more to the table than that. Harvin’s speed makes him a dangerous kickoff and punt returner. He will still have fond memories of the second half kick off he returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLVIII victory for the Seahawks against the Denver Broncos.

Harvin can pose a threat in the backfield too, and also effectively runs the jet sweep. We saw this a lot in the 2014 season opener while he was still in Seattle; the Green Bay Packers simply had no answer for him. These two factors can add a whole new dimension to the Jets offense.

Once he breaks free into open space, there is no stopping him. He is as quick as they come and if you allow him to get in a foot race with a defensive back, it’s game over. This all sounds well and good, but there are some issues raised:

The Downside

Unfortunately, there are a number of question marks over Harvin. First off, he has been somewhat injury prone since being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2009. Harvin has only completed a full season once in his NFL career, and that was in 2011.

He had a number of ankle issues in college, and this has carried through into the NFL. In 2012, he underwent surgery for a complete ligament tear and was placed on injured reserve, missing the final four games of the Vikings’ season.

After the major hype surrounding his trade to the Seattle Seahawks in 2013, Harvin tore the labrum in his hip, which sidelined him for 15 regular season games. He then got injured again in the postseason before his heroic return in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Other than the injury concerns, there have been questions raised about his attitude. During his time at the Vikings, his complaints of quarterback Christian Ponder was said to be one of the main reasons they decided to trade him.

Speculation then grew during his time in Seattle that he had been involved in physical altercations with wide receiver Golden Tate. It is hard to believe that the Seahawks’ decision to trade him was based purely on him not fitting into the offense, considering he only played eight times for them.

“Yes, there was an altercation in the locker room between Percy Harvin and Golden Tate. It saddens me because I was a leader on that team,” former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson said. “There was an issue. I physically broke it up, I was there.”

While Harvin is incredibly versatile, that can also be a disadvantage. Not being a typical wideout, it can be difficult to integrate him into an offense, and coordinators could well end up having to design separate plays specifically for Harvin to be able to fully utilise his skill set.

“I think having Percy Harvin on that team put offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in kind of a tricky situation. He’s not a pure wide receiver, he’s not a pure running back. He’s a guy that you have to game-plan to get the ball for,” Robinson said.

Regardless of his injury concerns or off-the-field problems, Harvin on his day can be one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NFL, and this is something the Jets will have to consider.

Jets have options

With the decision not having to be made until March 19, the Jets will have nine days prior to this in free agency to see if they can attract a top wide receiver to the team.

"Building through the draft is ideally what I'd like to do, but we'll be very active in free agency,” new Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan said.

This year’s list of free agent wideouts is talented, including Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas and Randall Cobb. It is hard to see either three of those players not returning to their current teams, but even if they do there are still options for the Jets.

Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin and Baltimore’s Torrey Smith could draw the attention from the new coaching staff, and should one of these big names join the Jets, it would seem more likely Harvin will be shown the exit door.

It’s also entirely possible they could look at the crop of tight ends set to hit the market. The most noticeable of names are Denver’s Julius Thomas and Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron.

The Jets’ offense is in desperate need of more weapons. While there are question marks regarding the starting quarterback of 2015, whoever gets that job will need more people to throw the ball to than just Eric Decker. If they are able to attract a top free agent, they may well decide it’s time to release Harvin and add more depth in the draft.

Should the Jets decide to keep Harvin on their roster past March 19, they will still be able to cut him at a later date and won’t owe any guaranteed money. This seems unlikely, though, as delaying the process would mean giving up a fourth-rounder rather than a sixth-rounder.

Should he return?

In my opinion, a lot will come down to who the Jets are able to bring in through free agency. If they are able to sign one of the names previously mentioned, then I think they would need to preserve cap space and cut their losses with Percy Harvin.

Should they not land a wideout on the market, I would feel they are best off keeping him. While the draft provides another opportunity to strengthen the offense, and the Jets do own the sixth overall pick, it is yet to be seen where they will go with that pick. If either quarterback Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston remain on the board, it would be difficult for them to pass up the opportunity to bring one of them in.

On his day, Percy Harvin is one of the most explosive and dangerous offensive threats in the NFL. Whether we see this Percy Harvin in New York next season or whether he will be looking for yet another team is unknown, but it is certainly going to be fun to find out.

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