The Eagles needed to do something at safety this offseason. After the loss of Jalen Mills, the team subsequently added safety and special teams ace Andrew Adams to a one-year deal. But Howie Roseman had something else brewing at that position, and he struck gold with the signing of former Vikings safety Anthony Harris.
Not only was Roseman able to snag arguably the best defensive player left on the open market, the contract Harris signed is drastically lower than what many expected he’d sign for.
The contract is essentially a one-year “prove it” deal for the safety, worth just $5 million. Pro Football Focus projected that Harris would sign for four years at $56 million ($14M per year), with $27 million guaranteed. You truly never know how a market is going to shake out for a player.
In 2019, Harris had his breakout season and staked his claim as one the league’s top safeties. He posted a league-high 6 interceptions, while deflecting 11 passes and allowing a 44.2 passer rating when targeted.
His numbers fell off a bit the following year, as did his entire Vikings team, but Harris still proved to be effective. He posted a career high in tackles with 104 while allowing just 58.3% of the passes thrown his way to get completed. It was also the first year of Harris’ career in which he started all 16 games.
Coming from Mike Zimmer’s defense, Harris should be a great fit in Philadelphia under new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon — who coached under Zimmer and draws a lot of inspiration from him.
Harris’ strength is clearly in pass coverage, which has been the biggest area of weakness on this Eagles defense for the past few years. In 2020, the Eagles were 15th in total pass defense, 15th in passing touchdowns allowed, 29th in interceptions, and 19th in first downs allowed via the pass.
Harris posted a 91.6 and 87.1 coverage grade per PFF in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Since 2018, Harris has forced incompletions on 25.9% of his targets, the highest mark among 76 safeties who have seen at least 50 targets over that span.
Although his production did take a plunge last season, some of that can be attributed to a lack luster pass rush from the Vikings front. Minnesota only recorded 23 sacks last season, fifth-lowest in the league. The year prior, they recorded the fifth-most sacks in the league with 48, leading to Harris’ best season as a pro.
One of the Eagles’ lone bright spots from last season was their pass rush, as they tallied 49 sacks (third-most in the NFL) and generated pressure on 27.9% of drop backs (second-most in the NFL).
At just one year for $5 million, it’s impossible not to view this signing as an absolute steal for the Eagles. Harris is a clear improvement over Mills and he’s a perfect fit for this defense.
The only cause for concern is his age — he’ll be 30 heading into next season. But this one year contract ensures the Eagles won’t have to pay him past this year if he’s unable to bounce back from a down year last year.
It’s a win for the Eagles, and if Harris is able to produce in a new city and prove his worth, it’s a win for him too.