Harris originally entered the league as an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2015 NFL Draft. He overlapped with new Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon on the Minnesota Vikings while contributing as a role player during his first three seasons. Harris saw more significant playing time in 2018 before serving as a full-time starter in 2019 and 2020. All told, Harris has logged 47 starts in 81 career regular season games (plus two starts in five playoff appearances).
Harris would’ve been one of the top free agents on the market last year had the Vikings not placed the franchise tag on him. He had a flashy 2019 season with six interceptions and 11 passes defensed. Instead, Harris entered free agency this year coming off a weaker season for his standards.
Here’s a look at how Harris has graded out by Pro Football Focus since becoming a regular starter:
2018 — 5th out of 100
2019 — 2nd out of 98
2020 — 38th out of 99
Harris’s 118.1 passer rating when targeted in 2020, per Pro Football Reference, was significantly worse than his 44.2 mark in 2019 or 58.1 in 2018. His 8.8% missed tackle percentage was also a career-worst.
I mean, you can criticize Rick Spielman for a lot of things, but NOT giving Anthony Harris a long-term deal is looking like a pretty solid move.— Daily Norseman, Skolcially Distancing Since '06 (@DailyNorseman) January 3, 2021
The Eagles had an obvious need at safety with Jalen Mills leaving in free agency and Rodney McLeod being a candidate to begin the season on PUP after suffering an ACL injury in December. The only other safeties under contract were Andrew Adams (more of a special teams contributor) and unproven options such as Marcus Epps (473 career defensive snaps), K’Von Wallace (202), Grayland Arnold (82), and Elijah Riley (4).
Signing Harris to a one-year deal fills a short-term need for Philly. And if he rebounds to pre-2020 form, the Eagles potentially got an elite player for a relative bargain price this season.
Then again, maybe Harris’s best years are behind him considering he turns 30 in October. And even if he does play well, the Eagles will be looking at signing a 31-year-old to a multi-year extension. As opposed to taking a chance on a younger player (like Malik Hooker, for example) who might be a more viable long-term piece for a “retooling” team.
Maybe it’ll work out! Or maybe it’ll be another free agent flop.
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