Damien Harris Free Agency Best Fits: Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Los Angeles and Atlanta could be in pursuit

The 2023 NFL free agency period is beginning at a breakneck pace. While some players will return to their current teams, most players, especially the bigger names, will be looking for a potential new landing spot, as is the case with RB Damien Harris.

Harris is one of the biggest names at his position and has barely wormed his way into our NFL Top 100 Free Agents. What are some potential landing spots for Harris for the 2023 season after his rookie contract with the New England Patriots expires?

Damien Harris Free agency is the best fit

After his rookie contract expired, Harris slammed into free agency as part of an extensive roster of available running backs. But Harris’ career hasn’t quite gone as some thought while he was dominating in Alabama, as various injuries played a significant role in his decline. It ended up costing him his job.

Harris is unlikely to be in line for a significant payday this offseason. He missed six games of the 2022 season through injuries and rushed for 462 yards and three touchdowns with 106 carries while catching 17 passes (23 goals) for 97 yards.

If you ask Harris, he would have no problem returning to the Patriots. But at the end of the day, the NFL is a business.

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“If they want me, I’d love to come back,” Harris said in January. “But at the end of the day, I know this is a deal. I know this organization will do what they think is best for them and at the end of the day I have to do what I think is best for me.”

According to Spotrac, Harris has an estimated market value of $7.1 million AAV on a three-year deal, which honestly seems high to me given the current market. But as a two-down back with TD Upside, Harris will surely find a new home.

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There’s always a role for players who can get the tough and dirty yards and teams with enough salary caps to pull off a deal.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could target Harris to add to the depth chart

With the release of Leonard Fournette, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a void on their depth chart to fill. Rachaad White saw his role grow in 2022, particularly in the latter half of the season, but he saw the bulk of his performance in the reception game when he caught 50 of 58 goals for 290 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie.

However, white is not a bruise or one that tends to absorb contact well despite its size. Here Harris becomes a logical complement. He could serve as a short area specialist and also be the primary target for the Bucs to go back while White is the dynamic, receiving and tempo-changing RB on offense.

As long as Harris stays healthy, Tampa Bay would be one of the best candidates for his ability and the needs of the team. With questions at QB for Tampa following Tom Brady’s retirement, establishing a rushing game in 2023 will be paramount.

Harris could complete the Jacksonville Jaguars backfield

Two is one and one is none. That’s Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson’s approach to running back positions. At the NFL Combine, it’s more like Pederson answered the question bluntly whether the team wanted to add more running backs. “Yes.”

“I think in today’s game you need two or three players. You have to be able to carry the load. They’re talking about an 18-week, 17-game schedule and postseason, that’s wear and tear for the lads. You know, we haven’t seen enough of Snoop Conner either. But we like him. And we know what JaMycal [Hasty] can, we know what Travis Etienne can do [Jr.] can do.

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“So yeah, you’re always looking for two, three, four people who can do the rotation at any given time.”

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With the departure of James Robinson as a free agent (New England), Harris would make sense for the Jaguars as their short-area RB. After missing his rookie season due to a foot injury, Etienne was electrified in 2022. However, there was also an eight-game stretch in which he averaged 19 touches per game and saw 21 during their wild card win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

While I’m sure Etienne wants as many touches as possible, Pederson wants to keep him healthy as Etienne is one of the more dangerous weapons in the league outside the backfield. With the Jaguars being favorites for the AFC South, managing his touches will be of paramount importance.

While more expensive than a potential rookie RB, Harris brings a solid track record as a dependable No. 2 and could help fill out the depth map for the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Atlanta Falcons could be eyeing Harris in free agency

When we think about the best fits for Harris, the Atlanta Falcons become an interesting option. Head Coach Arthur Smith wants to build a rushing-focused attack similar to what he led as offensive coordinator at the Tennessee Titans.

Tyler Allgeier, a fifth-round pick in 2022, had a successful rookie season and was one of only two rookie RBs to rush for 1,000 yards. Atlanta also has Cordarrelle Patterson as a receiving threat, so Harris would give the Falcons a three-man attack that can keep any RB fresh longer.

While Harris adds absolutely nothing as a receiver, he would be an easy addition to spell out Allgeier without the offensive needing to change their overall philosophy.

While Allgeier showed he can handle a significant workload over his last four weeks, averaging 19.8 carries and 107.8 yards, it remains to be seen how that volume would translate over an entire season. Harris could also take unnecessary hits and reps from Patterson, who is nearing the end of his career.

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Could Harris help fill the potential void left by Austin Ekeler with the Los Angeles Chargers?

One team I didn’t expect to talk about on RB talk was the Los Angeles Chargers. However, it has been reported that recent contract negotiations between the team and Austin Ekeler “have not progressed,” according to ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry. Consequently, Ekeler has received permission to seek a trade.

The 27-year-old RB was one of the most efficient running backs in the modern NFL. Ekeler surpassed 900 scrimmage yards in each of the last five years, but took his game to a different level compared to the previous two years. In 33 games between 2021 and 2022, Ekeler compiled 3,195 yards from scrimmage with a whopping 38 touchdowns. You cannot simply replace this level of production.

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Isaiah Spiller, a rookie in 2022, lost a ton of the hype he carried at Texas A&M and it’s yet to be seen what he will do in the NFL. But as a member of the committee, I think he brings a certain value. But who takes on most of the transport and does the dirty work?

This is where someone like Harris fits in as an RB with two losses for the Chargers, while Spiller can be more of the pace change and receiving option. It’s also worth considering Joshua Kelley, who had 69 rushes and 25 goals last year, as an additional pawn for Los Angeles. Still, unless Spiller makes a significant move from Year 1 to Year 2, Harris would make the most sense as a lead back.

Source : www.profootballnetwork.com

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