One of the biggest storylines for the Minnesota Vikings this offseason has been the status of star safety Anthony Harris. As Pro Football Focus’ second-graded safety this past season, Harris has developed into a star in Mike Zimmer’s defense and has been one of the pillars for the Vikings since coming on as a UDFA in 2015.
Although Harris plays an important role in the Vikings defense, money always seems to be an issue in Minnesota. After retaining Harris on the franchise tag, the two sides have worked to reach a long-term deal, but nothing seems to be imminent especially with Dalvin Cook wanting to get paid on the offensive end.
While the case for the Vikings to strike a deal with Harris is obvious, a good team always looks to keep their options open. One of those options may have opened up on Thursday night when fellow safety Jamal Adams informed the New York Jets that he would like to be traded.
It’s not shocking to see that the Vikings did not make Adams’ list of six desired destinations per ESPN’s Adam Schefter considering they have Harris and Harrison Smith, but teams rarely accommodate their disgruntled players anyway. If the Jets get an offer including Harris, would they pull the trigger, and would it make sense for the Vikings to do a safety swap roughly six weeks away from training camp?
What Jamal Adams could bring to the Vikings
A quick look at Adams shows that he’s a similar type of player to what Harris provides to the Vikings. Both players are roughly the same size and both put up a 4.56 40-yard dash at their respective combines. But as the sixth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Adams provides more versatility and is four years younger than Harris.
|Anthony Harris||Jamal Adams|
|Weight||202 pounds||213 pounds|
|40-Ydash||4.56 seconds||4.56 seconds|
|Overall PFF Grade||91.1||87.9|
|PFF Coverage Grade||92.7||87.3|
|PFF Tackling Grade||79.4||90.0|
Harris has the edge on Adams when it comes to interceptions — he led the league with six last season while Adams has had one each of the past two seasons — but part of that is how Adams has been used in New York. In addition to being a strong tackler (18.5 attempts per missed tackle) and coverage (79.1 passer rating when targeted), Adams also brings the bonus of being an elite pass rusher.
Adams ranked third among qualifying safeties last season in pass rusher productivity (16.1%) but also led the NFL in pressures with 23. A lot of that comes from the way the Jets used him with 90 pass-rushing snaps (second behind Baltimore’s Chuck Clark, who had 101), but it also could get better with the added presence of Smith, who would be an instant upgrade over Marcus Maye and Rontez Myles.
There’s also the contract situation to consider when it comes to adding Adams. According to Spotrac, Adams stands to count $7.1 million under the cap this season and has a one-year option of $9.6 million next season. Lowering the current cap number could help the Vikings throw that money toward Cook’s negotiations or even tapping into the last wave of free agents to help bolster the offensive line.
Why the Vikings should have pause
Finding younger, cheaper alternatives is the route that NFL teams seem to be going these days, but it might not be a good idea to trade Harris. While he’s currently signed for one year, the Vikings may feel like it’s not enough of an upgrade to make such a dramatic move.
Last season, Harris was ranked second among all qualifying safeties per Pro Football Focus, and while Adams checked at eighth, would it be worth the additional capital to make a deal work? With the Jets also on the verge of a full-blown rebuild, would they accept a 28-year-old veteran or would they prefer a slew of draft picks in the same way the Vikings cashed in on Stefon Diggs?
There’s also the camaraderie that comes from keeping a guy like Harris in the fold. As part of a secondary that will have almost an entirely new cornerback room, Harris’ familiarity with the defense is an added bonus as is working with a familiar teammate in Smith. With no on-field workouts to get Adams up to speed, the Vikings may actually take a step back before they took a step forward with him in the fold.
This doesn’t touch on the off-field aspect, where Harris won the Korey Stringer Good Guy Award in 2019 as the player that cooperates best with local media. He also is a part of the Vikings’ social justice committee, which has played a large role in the team’s response to the killing of George Floyd.
Should the Vikings do it?
A swap involving Adams and Harris is something that would be reserved for Madden but has its benefits for both teams. In the current climate, however, it just doesn’t seem like now is the time to make a dramatic move.
Adams could make the Vikings better in the long run, and with a team that seems to be heading into a youth movement in 2020, he could be a key piece much longer than Harris could. However, the job that Harris did in 2019 doesn’t necessitate a search for a replacement, and if the Vikings couldn’t reach a contract agreement with Harris, there’s no guarantee they could hammer one out with Adams, who will likely become the league’s highest-paid safety once eligible.
With the Vikings’ added reluctance to dump resources into the safety position, Harris should do just fine, and if the two sides can reach a deal, Harris could be a piece that helps the Vikings continue to roll along in 2020 and beyond.