Percy Harvin vs. Deion Branch: Which Trade Was Better?

Similarities!  We’ve got ’em!

The 2005 Seattle Seahawks went 13-3, won two playoff games, and went to the Super Bowl.  Their top wide receivers were a whole bunch of nobodies (respectively, when compared to the rest of the National Football League).  Bobby Engram had the most receptions:  67 for 778 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Joe Jurevicius was a veteran on a 1-year deal who was thrust into a starting role when Darrell Jackson went down with injury for the bulk of the season from October thru December (coming back a couple games before the playoffs started).  Jurevicius caught 55 balls for 694 yards and 10 TDs.  The aforementioned Jackson was a non-factor for the most part, though he would bounce back with a quality 2006 season.  Meanwhile, Jurevicius would end up leaving in free agency to play in Cleveland for a couple of years before retiring.

The 2006 Seahawks could have opted to improve their team in a number of ways.  A sane, rational human being might have focused on an immediate upgrade along the offensive line (like, for instance, not dicking around with Steve Hutchinson and just paying the man what he was worth) or in the secondary.  Instead, Tim Ruskell thought it would be a good idea to trade our first round pick in the 2007 NFL draft – #24 overall – for a wide receiver named Deion Branch.

Branch, if you will recall, was holding out in New England for a new deal.  Like Harvin, Branch was a 4-year veteran in the final season of his rookie deal.  Unlike Harvin, Branch came over in September (9/11/2006:  never forget).  By holding out, he ended up missing the first two games of the season.  Seattle, essentially, had zero time to acclimate him to our offensive scheme.

As I stated above, Darrell Jackson bounced back to have a nice 2006 season.  Bobby Engram, however, caught the injury bug and missed over half the games.  That opened things up for a quasi-talented Deion Branch to step into our #2 receiver role.  He caught 53 balls for 725 yards and 4 touchdowns in that first season.  Not EXACTLY what we thought we’d be getting for our first round draft pick, but at least we made the playoffs and kind of stuck it to the Patriots a little bit by losing in the Divisional Round to Rex Grossman and the Chicago Bears (a day that will live in drunken infamy).

The Seahawks had one more playoff season in them, in 2007, and then everything fell to shit.  Branch stuck around until 2010 when, after four games, he was traded back to New England for a 4th round pick in the 2011 draft.  That pick ended up being K.J. Wright, so we mitigated some of that loss, but still.

With New England, Deion Branch was a quality contributer.  He returned kicks throughout his rookie season, and returned a handful of punts as well.  He was also just as injury prone as Percy Harvin (playing in 53 games over 4 seasons vs. Harvin’s 54 games over 4 seasons).  Branch’s average per-season line amounted to 53 receptions for 686 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Harvin’s average per-season line with the Vikings these past four years amoutned to 70 receptions for 826 yards and 5 touchdowns.  When you tack on Harvin’s rushing totals, though, his yards per scrimmage per season averages out to almost 1,000, with an extra touchdown tacked on.

The 2012 Seahawks went 11-5, won one playoff game, and was half a minute from going to the NFC Championship Game.  Their top receivers, again, were a bunch of nobodies (respective to the rest of the NFL).  Leading receiver Sidney Rice caught only 50 balls.  Golden Tate caught only 45.  Essentially, though, that’s where the similarities end for these two teams.

The 2005 Seahawks were at their peak.  By 2008, they were a broken down old fool of a team that needed a complete overhaul.  The 2012 Seahawks, by contrast, are only just beginning their dynasty.  They are a few small pieces away from going all the way.  The 2006 Seahawks fucked up in a multitude of ways.  The 2006 Seahawks also couldn’t get out of their own way when they drafted players.  The 2013 Seahawks have almost nothing BUT drafted players, with a large handful of new picks in the coming draft to play around with.

Deion Branch was never going to solve all of our ills.  He wasn’t the one piece we needed to go over the top.  Percy Harvin isn’t that one piece either; but I think it’s safe to say he’s a BETTER piece now than Branch was then.  I also think that his is a piece we should be able to utilize more effectively.  Because A. he’s familiar with our system, having worked under Darrell Bevell before; and B. we will have a full offseason with which to work him into our offense (as opposed to a few mid-week practices right at the start of the regular season).

So, no, this isn’t EXACTLY the Deion Branch trade.  But, then again, the cost for Percy Harvin was a lot greater.  Both in terms of money and draft picks.  Branch went for the #24 overall pick.  Harvin went for the #25 pick, a seventh rounder, and a third rounder NEXT year.  Branch signed a 6-year, $39 million deal.  Harvin has agreed to a 6-year, $67 million deal.  Ultimately, the question remains:  will Harvin live up to all this cost?

In his first four full seasons (if we count 2006 as a “full” season) with the Seattle Seahawks, Deion Branch averaged 44 receptions for 559 yards and 4 touchdowns per year.  He also never played a full 16-game season with the Seahawks, suffering injuries in every season from 2007-2009.  To say he was a bust is an understatement.  He was a final Fuck You from the Tim Ruskell regime that left us with no cap space and a shit-ton of terrible, old players.

It would take just about nothing for Percy Harvin to be a better return of investment than Deion Branch, but we can’t exactly compare them as apples to apples.  Percy Harvin has to live up to an even BIGGER investment.  With just as high of stakes:  going back to and ultimately WINNING a Super Bowl.

Obviously, it’s not all on Harvin to get us a championship, and it likely wouldn’t be his fault if we failed to reach that goal.  But, if this team starts to sputter, if he comes down with a series of nagging injuries every year, or if he forgets how to catch a football when he’s in the game, then people are going to look at Harvin, and at this deal to bring him here, as a major reason why we failed.

So, let’s not let it come to that, right?  Right.

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  1. Pingback: Should NFL Teams Trade For Wide Receivers? | Seattle Sports Hell

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