I am not sure this should be considered a good thing. Harris has struggled mightily at the safety position and should not be viewed as a viable running-mate to the newly re-signed Tracy Walker.
Earlier in the offseason, I had Harris pinned as a likely cap casualty feeling that the Detroit Lions would prioritize signing a big-named safety (Marcus Williams). The former third-round selection is entering the final year of his rookie contract and will account for a mere $2.77 million against the cap. General manager Brad Holmes attempted to lure the talented safety to Detroit, but Williams elected to sign a five-year deal worth $70-million with the Baltimore Ravens.
There were alternative options to Williams hitting the open market, such as Quandre Diggs and Tyrann Mathieu, D.J. Reed, Justin Reid, Landon Collins, and Jabrill Peppers. Still, after signing Walker to a lucrative three-year deal worth $25 million, it seems Holmes is hoping to address the position in the draft rather than spending a plethora of money in free agency at the position knowing the defense has so many additional needs.
The one bargain I see is Peppers, who signed a one-year deal worth $2 million to join the Patriots. I wish the Lions would have been able to match or even pay a bit more to get Peppers to Detroit, even just as a depth defender.
Will Harris is just versatile enough for the Detroit Lions to keep on the roster for one more season.
Campbell recently stated that Harris’ versatility should be viewed as a strength;
"“He’s a cafety,” Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell joked Thursday. “Yeah, he’s a hybrid. He really is. He’s a jack of all trades.”“That’s one of his greatest attributes, which we came to find out last year,” Campbell said. “I mean, we wouldn’t have known that. You guys heard me talk about it. We would have not known that had we not had the injuries and COVID and everything else. So I think he’s a jack of all trades.”“We’re still talking right now, you just go out Day 1, do you put him at corner? Do you put him at safety?” Campbell said. “And I’ll be honest with you, we haven’t just locked that down right now. We’re still kind of talking about it. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s not a bad thing."
Last season Harris produced an atrocious 42.6 overall grade courtesy of Pro Football Focus (PFF). Again, PFF isn’t the be-all, end-all of measurements, but it gives us an idea of how a player performs.
That overall grade also includes a brutal 41.7 mark in coverage. Harris yielded an average of 10.6 yards per reception in 2021, allowing a whopping 74% of his targets to be completed. Harris allowed 48 receptions totaling 510 yards plus five touchdowns on 65 targets. He broke up four passes. Harris hasn’t had an interception yet in his three years at the NFL level.
The 26-year old was forced into duty as a cornerback last season as the year wore on due to injury, primarily working out of the slot, but was asked to work as the CB1 on the outside in Detroit’s Week 18 matchup against the Green Bay Packers, where he unexpectantly held up surprisingly well. Harris made eight tackles in the contest and allowed just 43 yards receiving.
I have no issue with the Lions retaining Harris for the final year of his rookie contract if they plan on using him as a depth corner/safety and a contributor on special teams. If the Detroit Lions plan on starting Harris in 2022, I don’t feel the organization has taken the proper step forward we expect on the defensive side of the ball.
In addition to Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, and Jerry Jacobs returning from injury, the Lions will also deploy second-year man Ifeatu Melifonwu and recently signed free agent Mike Hughes as the teams’ top five cornerbacks to begin the year (draft pending).
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I anticipate the Detroit Lions to draft a starting safety to pair with Walker with one of their picks in the first three rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft. My hope is Georgia’s Lewis Cine with pick no. 32 or no. 34.