Anthony Harris

AFC North Notes: Browns, Ravens, Steelers

The Browns have long been mentioned as the primary suitor for Redskins left tackle Trent Williams, and while no trade is on the immediate horizon, Williams does remain an option for Cleveland, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. At the moment, Washington is asking for too much in trade compensation, while Williams is demanding too expensive an extension. If either of those prices drops, the Browns could make a move for a (much-needed) new blindside protector.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • While the Browns are still considering Williams, Vikings safety Anthony Harris –= whom Cleveland has reportedly considered in trade — is no longer an option for the Browns, per Cabot. Minnesota apparently wants at least a third-round pick in order to part with Harris, while the 28-year-old defensive back would want a new deal to supersede his franchise tag. Instead of pursuing Harris, the Browns signed free agent safeties Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo.
  • Franchise-tagged edge rusher Matthew Judon is not close to reaching a new deal with the Ravens, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. Judon will earn $15.828MM in 2020 if he sticks on the franchise tender, but he was reportedly asking for $20MM annually earlier this year, per Zrebiec, who adds that asking price may have since come down. The 28-year-old Judon played 80.8% of Baltimore’s snaps last season and posted a career-high 8.5 sacks.
  • Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward has been eyeing an extension since at least January, and according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the 30-year-old should receive a new deal “soon.” Heyward, is set to earn $9.5MM and count for ~13.25MM on the Steelers’ salary cap in 2020. An extension would give Heyward more immediate cash but likely lower his cap charge for next season.

Browns Exploring Trade For Vikings S Anthony Harris

The Browns are exploring a trade for Vikings safety Anthony Harris, reports Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. It would take at least a third-rounder to get a deal done, “and probably a second.”

The 28-year-old was slapped with the franchise tag on Monday, but there were whispers that the Vikings were going to try to tag-and-trade the defensive back. Harris is set to make $11.44MM next season. As Cabot points out, the Browns have the ammo to get a deal done. The team currently owns one second-rounder (#41) and a pair of thirds (#74, #97).

Harris has a natural connection to Cleveland, as he played under Browns pass game coordinator and defensive backs coach Jeff Howard in Minnesota. Browns head coach (and former Vikings offensive coordinator) Kevin Stefanski is also familiar with the long-time Vikings safety.

The former undrafted free agent has evolved into a starter in Minnesota, as he started a career-high 14 games in 2019. He finished the campaign with 60 tackles, 11 passes defended, and six interceptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings To Place Franchise Tag On Anthony Harris

Monday morning’s tag mania continues. A 13th team will use its tag. Less than ten minutes before the deadline, the Vikings will deploy their tag on safety Anthony Harris, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It will cost the Vikings $11.4MM to use this tag.

[RELATED: Vikings, Cousins Agree To Extension]

Harris was not viewed as a tag candidate, instead being set for free agency as one of the market’s top defenders. Now, he’ll be tethered to Minnesota’s payroll. The Vikings’ cuts of Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph, and their Kirk Cousins extension, helped create cap space to make a Harris tag possible.

Harris and Justin Simmons were the consensus top two options at the safety position, but the Broncos whittled that down recently by applying the franchise tag to their star in the secondary. Harris, a proven vet, has ranked among the league’s best safeties in his time with the Vikings. Understandably, the Vikes didn’t want to let him get away.

According to the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus, Harris has been a top-five safety in each of the last two years. Between 2018 and 2019, he’s totaled nine interceptions, 17 passes defended, and 106 tackles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Harris, Kwiatkoski, Kearse, Kilgo

The Vikings secondary was one of the most inconsistent parts of their defense last season, but safety Anthony Harris remained a star amidst an inconsistent supporting cast. While Harris is set to become a free agent, Minnesota fans should be happy to know that he has a positive view of the Vikings. In an interview on Sirius XM, Harris stated, “I love the organization.”

Here are a few more notes from the NFC North:

  • The Bears organization has seen linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski progress into a legitimate contributor since he was selected in the 4th round of the 2016 draft. However, Dan Pompei of The Athletic, reports that after signing fellow linebacker Danny Trevathan to a three-year extension, Chicago appears prepared to let Kwiatkoski leave the organization via free agency.
  • Vikings impending free-agent defensive back Jayron Kearse took to Twitter on Friday and said he does not want to return to the team. A pair of Vikings fans were engaging in common social media speculation about the various ways Minnesota could approach the offseason. When one argued that they thought Jayron wanted to stay in the twin cities, Kearse jumped in and said, “No jayron doesn’t want to come back.”
  • Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports Lions nose tackle Darius Kilgo will soon be cleared to return to action from the quadriceps injury that cost him all of last season. Pelissero further notes that Detroit has no intention of resigning Kilgo, but it’s obviously ideal for Kilgo to be back to health before entering the open market. Of course, teams would likely want to see Kilgo workout in person, but the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak could make teams more tentative to give Kilgo any guarantee if they are unable to see him in person.

POLL: Who’s The Best Free Agent Safety?

As free agency inches closer, we’ll continue previewing the impending market. One of the most interesting comparisons surrounds the safety position.

Anthony Harris and Justin Simmons are the consensus top two options at the position, but determining which should is the best option for a team in need of a new safety is a more difficult proposition. Harris, has been an established and proven veteran, while Simmons jumped to the top of the pack this year.

Harris, at 28, has ranked among the league’s best safeties in his time with the Vikings. Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), Harris ranked among the five best-graded safeties in both 2018 and 2019. Over the past two seasons, he’s nabbed 9 interceptions, recorded 17 passes defended, and 106 tackles.

While Simmons does not have the longevity and track record of Harris, the Bronco graded as the 2nd best safety this season, per PFF, receiving a 90.8 grade. Simmons recorded 4 interceptions, 15 passes defended, and 93 tackles this season alone, but never graded above 80.0 prior to this season.

Most compelling to his case, at just 26 years old, Simmons could be poised to be one of the best centerfielders in football, but will teams want to gamble on that over Harris’ proven track record?

There are a number of other solid options at safety including Jimmie Ward and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but neither combine the health history and top end recent performance of Harris and Simmons.

Which safety do you prefer? Let us know in the poll below.

Vikings To Move On From Anthony Harris?

The Vikings currently have just $1.3MM of salary cap space, the lowest amount in the league at the moment, which means that they will have to make some tough decisions as the offseason goes along. One of those decisions involves safety Anthony Harris, who sounds likely to leave Minnesota when free agency opens in March.

Speaking to reporters at the scouting combine, head coach Mike Zimmer said, “I love Anthony; if he doesn’t come back, I think he’s earned whatever he’s gotten. But, you know, if you put up the positions that are most important on defense, it’s probably not going to be safety. We’ll figure out a way to find one if he’s not back” (via Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune).

As Goessling observes, the Vikings have generally not spent much money on a safety to pair with star Harrison Smith in the defensive backfield, and Harris’ career trajectory suggests that Minnesota will be able to replace him at a fraction of what he is likely to earn on the open market.

A 2015 UDFA, Harris did not become a full-time starter until the middle of the 2018 season, when Andrew Sendejo was suspended. He performed well enough to earn a second-round RFA tender last year, and he started all 14 games in which he appeared in 2019. He racked up a league-leading six interceptions, and advanced metrics loved him. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the third-best safety in the game last year — one spot ahead of Smith, a five-time Pro Bowler — and he earned high praise for his coverage skills.

All of that will put him in high demand in a couple of weeks, and he should be one of the first players to come off the market when the bell rings on March 18.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Re-Sign RFA Anthony Harris

The Vikings announced that safety Anthony Harris has signed his second-round restricted free agent tender. Offensive tackle Rashod Hill, meanwhile, has inked his original round RFA tender.

Harris, 27, had primarily been a special teams player throughout his Vikings career until midway through last season, when starting safety Andrew Sendejo went down with a groin injury. Harris stepped in opposite Harrison Smith and went on to post a breakout campaign, posting 46 tackles, three interceptions, and six passes defensed. Pro Football Focus was incredibly impressed with Harris’ play, ranking him as the NFL’s third-best safety.

Harris will earn a $3.095MM base salary in 2019 before hitting unrestricted free agency. While the Vikings could pursue an extension for Harris, they’re already projected to be among the most cap-strapped clubs in the NFL, and have several other players — including cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander and tight end Kyle Rudolph — scheduled to hit the open market next year. If Harris isn’t extended, he’d join a free agent safety class that will also include Kevin Byard, Devin McCourty, Damarious Randall, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Tender Anthony Harris

The Vikings are tendering safety Anthony Harris at the second-round level, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The move will earmark Harris for a one-year tender, $3.095MM contract. 

The decision to tender Harris comes on the heels of the club’s call to decline Andrew Sendejo‘s option. Even after losing Sendejo, the Vikings will maintain some continuity by keeping Harris in the secondary.

Over the last four seasons, Harris has appeared in 51 games for the Vikings. In 2018, he took a step up in responsibility and started nine games at safety after Sendejo was lost for the year. The Vikings’ defense improved from that point, so the decision to retain Harris was something of a no-brainer.

The call on which tender to use, however, was a bit trickier. Apparently, the Vikings did not feel comfortable with using the original round tender on the former UDFA for fear of losing him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Tender Anthony Harris, Mack Brown

The Vikings have elected to tender exclusive rights free agent safety Anthony Harris and ERFA running back Mack Brown, according to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. Harris is now slated to earn $705K while Brown will make $630K in 2018.

The move to tender Harris was widely expected and largely procedural. A former undrafted free agent, Harris has positioned himself as a valuable reserve and special teamer. Over the last three seasons, he has appeared in 36 games for Minnesota, including eight starts. Last year, he started three times in place of Andrew Sendejo while was either injured or suspended.

Brown only saw time in one game for the Vikings last year after he was brought over on waivers from the Redskins. The decision to tender him was also expected, though not as much of a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, the Vikings will not tender ERFA long snapper Jeff Overbaugh, meaning that he will become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday. Long snapper Kevin McDermott, who suffered a shoulder injury late in the season, will resume his role in 2018.

NFC North Notes: Vikings, Long, Bears

The Vikings outbid multiple suitors to sign Kyle Sloter to their practice squad, and the move ended up seeing the former college wide receiver promoted to the active roster in advance of Week 2. In addition to the Broncos, the Vikings presented a better offer than the Redskins or Bills in order to land Sloter, Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com reports. A wide receiver at Southern Miss before a transfer to Division I-FCS Northern Colorado put him loosely on the quarterback radar come UDFA signing time, Sloter played extensively for the Broncos during the preseason. John Elway hoped the Broncos could pass him through waivers to Denver’s practice squad, but the GM preferred more experience to start the season. This led to the Broncos’ decision to reunite with Brock Osweiler for the time being.

Sloter’s active-roster contract won’t pay him much more than his practice squad agreement, since the latter deal is on the higher end of such accords, and the pact is nonguaranteed, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. He did not receive a signing bonus.

Despite the insurance addition, Sam Bradford is still expected to start against the Steelers. Case Keenum resides as his backup. Here’s more from the NFC North.

  • The Bears will be without Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long for a second straight game to start the season. The team announced Long did not travel to Tampa Bay for the Bears’ Week 2 game. Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune notes (on Twitter) the Bears are hoping Long returns in Week 3. Long has not played since November of last season. A right ankle injury ended Long’s season, and the subsequent recovery process has now reached the 10-month mark. Prior to Long’s ankle injury, he’d missed one game out of a possible 56. Tom Compton started at left guard last week against the Falcons.
  • Michael Floyd‘s activation after a four-game suspension could make for an interesting roster decision, with Tomasson noting (Twitter link) the Vikings would prefer to keep wideout Rodney Adams on the roster. A rookie fifth-round pick out of South Florida would seemingly be vying with a player of a similar profile to stay on the roster after Floyd returns. Seventh-round rookie Stacy Coley, out of Miami, serves as Minnesota’s other other newcomer wideout. Coley, though, played in Minnesota’s Week 1 game while Adams was a healthy scratch. Jarius Wright and 2016 first-rounder Laquon Treadwell are the second-stringers.
  • The Vikings’ preference for Jayron Kearse and Anthony Harris led to Antone Exum being the odd man out when it came time to clear a spot for Sloter, Tomasson tweets.
  • Second-round Lions pick Teez Tabor is making progress, but the former Florida cornerback might not be in line to see much action for a while.
  • A 15-game starter for the Packers last season, Ladarius Gunter is now employed by another team. The Panthers claimed the third-year UDFA on waivers.