Going into the 2021 offseason, it felt like Anthony Harris could be one of the Vikings’ free-agency causalities. This became even more apparent following the signings of Dalvin Tomlinson and Patrick Peterson, as there wasn’t any room left to take on Harris’ projected market value.
That, of course, was what we thought before he signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Eagles. Harris’ value definitely took a hit after he went from leading the league in interceptions in 2019 to not recording any in 2020.
But I think everybody who watched the Vikings last season recognized that Harris had a lot more responsibility and, frankly, had to make up for a lot of inexperience in the secondary. With that in mind, $5 million seems like an absolute steal, which also begs the question: Why he didn’t end up back in Minnesota?
There’s absolutely no way Spielman couldn’t have got that money together, especially considering that there isn’t a clear-cut replacement on the roster.
I can already hear the rebuttals to this argument saying Peterson could jump into the other safety spot, and maybe he could. But to that I’d say, would you really rather have Peterson playing safety, or have Harris and use the money saved to sign a guard worth $5 million for the year?
As someone who doesn’t want to see Kirk Cousins eat turf for an entire season, I’d prefer the latter option. I think Spielman might follow the same line of thinking. The interest and money had to have been there from the team, but it clearly wasn’t there for Harris.
Arguably the most interesting thing was the fact that he took this contract in Philadelphia, specifically. It’d be one thing to take a pay cut to go ring-chasing, but the Eagles are far more than a piece or two away from a Super Bowl run.
This isn’t even the first time this has happened to Minnesota. In 2019, longtime safety Andrew Sendejo left the Vikings to go play for the Eagles. His stint in Philadelphia lasted less than a full season; he got cut after nine games and then got picked up by the Vikings again.
Sendejo and Harris aren’t the same players, but it showcases players’ willingness to hit the road if they don’t feel like they’re being compensated fairly. Sometimes, as shown by Sendejo’s journey, this move doesn’t work out.
That’s not to say Harris can’t find some success outside of Zimmer’s scheme, but it’s becoming an emerging trend that players struggle immediately after leaving Minnesota.
Look at Everson Griffen and Stephen Weatherly as further examples. Both defensive ends left Minnesota before last season, and on their respective new teams, both saw their performance take a hit. In fact, Weatherly is already back in Minneapolis after just one season with the Panthers.
I think Harris, at this point in his career, is much better than those aforementioned players, but it is still vexing that he left Minnesota. History says that him coming back would not only be a positive for the team, but also for his own play.
It’s pretty clear he took a one-year deal because he thinks he can earn a better long-term contract after a more productive season than he had on paper last year. But with all of the new pieces in Minnesota, this defense is guaranteed to improve from last year.
Instead of having to bail out a patchy defense like he had to in 2020, he’d be able to play a similar role to the one he occupied in 2019 — and in turn, earn himself a bigger contract.
This situation likely doesn’t lead to a long-term relationship between Harris and the Vikings, but I think anybody would take another year of Harris next to Harrison Smith at a reasonable price.
There’s no definitive answer I can give regarding Harris’s decision to leave the Twin Cities. Regardless, he’s headed to play for the Eagles. He should be a pretty good fit, but if he has any struggles the Vikings should welcome him back with open arms.
Considering he’s an above-average safety, the value of his contract cannot be understated. It just makes you think what could have been if the Vikings had jumped on a similar deal with their former safety.