Secondary First: Birds Fill Holes With Safety Signings
Finally, the Eagles signed a free agent to upgrade their defense and secondary. Another could be coming soon.
The Eagles are signing former Vikings safety Anthony Harris to a one-year, $5 million contract. ESPN and Josina Anderson first reported the agreement.
Harris is the kind of bargain discussed on the most recent Inside The Birds podcast, a veteran who can shore up the Eagles’ defense, which badly needs some bodies, but who takes up very little cap space and doesn’t preclude the team from addressing the position further in the draft.
The 6-foot-1, 202-pound Harris is the team’s first signing of the new league year who’s expected to make an immediate impact, but the Eagles are also reportedly set to meet with free-agent former Titans corner Adoree’ Jackson on Monday unless Jackson signs elsewhere first. He’s expected to meet with the Giants on Sunday, per reports.
On Thursday, the Eagles inked free-agent safety Andrew Adams, formerly of the Bucs. Andrews is expected to contribute on special teams.
Even more important than his manageable price tag, Harris has experience in the scheme that new Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon intends to implement, which will integrate concepts from the Vikings’ scheme that Harris has played in all six years of his career.
Before becoming defensive backs coach for the Colts, Gannon was an assistant defensive backs coach under Zimmer from 2015-2017. Those years, Harris mostly played special teams but he also started seven games.
With the Eagles, Harris should start opposite veteran Rodney McLeod, assuming McLeod returns by the season opener from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in a December win against the Saints. The Eagles had lost two safeties earlier in the week when last year’s starter Jalen Mills signed a four-year deal with the Patriots and backup safety Rudy Ford, a key special-teamer, signed with Jacksonville.
But the Eagles have a brackish mix of aging veterans and unproven youth at safety, with Harris set to join McLeod – who’s coming off his second major injury in three seasons – in the 30-club during the season, and just three backups in second-year pro K’von Wallace, third-year pro Marcus Epps and sixth-year vet Adams.
Wallace is a fourth-round pick and Epps earned some time in sub packages after an impressive training camp, but the Eagles have long ignored this position on Day 1 and 2 of the NFL Draft. They haven’t drafted a safety above the fourth round since 2012, when they selected Temple product Jaiquawn Jarrett at 54th overall. This year, they have four picks in the first three rounds.
Harris, 29, made the Vikings in 2015 as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia who was one of the better safety prospects in his draft class but tumbled because of a torn labrum that required surgery and kept him out of the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.
Harris played mostly defense for the first three years of his Vikings career before moving into a starting role during the 2018 season. He led the NFL with six interceptions in 2019 and drew the franchise tag to stay in Minnesota for another season. Last year, he played all 16 games but finished without an interception.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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