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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Jets' trade for Percy Harvin brings up one big question: Why?

Wide receiver Percy Harvin of the Seattle Seahawks

Wide receiver Percy Harvin of the Seattle Seahawks speaks to the media during Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day at the Prudential Center. (Jan. 28, 2014) Credit: Getty Images

The Jets' trade for Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin prompts us to say, simply: Wow. And then to ask, simply: Why?

It's a rare in-season blockbuster deal, especially between one team that is 1-6 and essentially out of the playoff race and another that is 3-2 and the defending Super Bowl champion -- a Super Bowl in which Harvin showed just how dazzling he can be when his health and his head are in the right place.

The Jets will be the third team for Harvin, whom the Vikings selected with the 22nd overall pick in 2009 and traded to the Seahawks in March 2013 for first- and seventh-round picks in 2013 and a third-rounder in 2014.

That's an awful lot of bouncing around for an elite talent -- one who spent much of his time in Minnesota dealing with migraine headaches, ankle and hip injuries, and contract complaints.

When he's right in body and mind, Harvin is one of the most electrifying players in the game. Unfortunately for the two teams that have invested big money in him -- the Seahawks gave him a six-year, $67- million contract that included $25.5 million in guarantees -- Harvin has been big on drama and injury and mostly short on performance.

He spent most of last season rehabbing from hip surgery, but the Seahawks gambled that he'd be healthy by the end of the season. Harvin played in just one regular-season game, on Nov. 17, and had only one catch for 17 yards, suffering complications from the surgery that kept him out of action until the playoffs.

He made it back in time for the divisional round of the NFC playoffs, helping the Seahawks to a win over the Saints. A concussion left him unable to play in the NFC Championship Game, but he came back for the Super Bowl and was a key factor in Seattle's 43-8 win over the Broncos at MetLife Stadium. He returned the second-half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown as the Seahawks took a 29-0 lead. Harvin also had two rushes for 45 yards.

Harvin had what would have been a dramatic performance in Seattle's 27-17 win over Washington in a Monday night game on Oct. 6, but his three TDs (two receiving, one rushing) all were called back because of penalties on Seattle.

Harvin's moments of brilliance have been largely overshadowed by his injuries and his attitude, and unless there is demonstrable evidence that the receiver will be a reliable presence on the field and in the locker room, we'll have to put this trade in the high-risk category.

Seattle seemed desperate to get rid of Harvin, perhaps in part because of locker-room issues. The Seattle Times reported Saturday that Harvin had fights with former teammates Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin.

The Jets are willing to take a chance. At 26, Harvin still is in the prime of his career, but as the Jets already have seen with another mercurial 26-year-old wide receiver they once traded for, the risk might not be worth the reward.

After the Jets acquired Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes from the Steelers in 2010, he turned into a major contributor in the Jets' run to the AFC Championship Game that year. But he also turned into a locker-room distraction, and the Jets bid him adieu this past offseason.

It was a case of good riddance, especially once the Jets replaced him with Broncos free agent Eric Decker, a much more reliable player and teammate.

But even with Decker, the Jets' receiving corps lacked a game-breaking type of player, and Harvin certainly fits that description when he's ready to play. But all too often during his days with the Vikings and then his brief stint with the Seahawks, he hasn't been ready to answer the bell on game day.

Jets general manager John Idzik has been widely criticized for not making bold moves and using some of the $20-plus million in salary-cap space the Jets created after getting out from under the cap-constraining contracts of Holmes, Mark Sanchez and others.

Is he reacting to the pressure by trading for Harvin, especially when there's a strong likelihood the Jets will have a new head coach next season? Or does Harvin figure into Idzik's long-term planning process? He certainly is young enough to fit into that vision, but he hasn't been reliable enough to count on.

That the Seahawks were willing to give up on Harvin so quickly ought to at least raise some red flags. And for a team that's already out of it less than halfway through the season, you have to wonder what the upside is, other than to create some buzz for a season gone bad.

That hasn't been Idzik's modus operandi in his very deliberate roster construction, so perhaps other factors are at work. Jets owner Woody Johnson was enamored of another temperamental speed receiver in the offseason, but the Jets didn't pull off a trade for DeSean Jackson, who went to Washington. Maybe Harvin is the consolation prize.

Whatever the case, it's a "wow" moment for a Jets team that has gone kaput early. But we still can't get away from that other one-word reaction to this blockbuster deal:


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