Even with new safety Anthony Harris, Eagles' secondary faces many questions
Each offseason, the Eagles try to revamp their secondary in order to get it right – and this season is no different.
There's a good chance, for the second straight year, three of the four starters will be either new or in new positions, bringing more questions than answers.
Anthony Harris, the Eagles' newest acquisition after he signed as a free agent last weekend from the Minnesota Vikings, also brings plenty of questions.
In 2019, Harris tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with six, and afterward, the Vikings placed the franchise tag on him, guaranteeing him a one-year salary worth $11.4 million. In 2020, Harris didn't have any interceptions, although he did set a career high with 104 tackles.
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The Vikings didn't sign him to a long-term contract, nor did they place a second franchise tag on him, which would have been worth $13.7 million. Instead, they allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.
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"You can take a look back ... and look around the league, and last year was a tough year for everyone," Harris said. "Ultimately, it’s in the past. I think everybody who went through what last year brought to the table, whether it was financially, health-wise with themselves or family, I think we all just take what we can from it, try to prepare better for situations that pop up that we can’t control, and embrace it with the best attitude possible."
That led Harris to the Eagles, on a one-year, prove-it type of contract worth $5 million on a team coming off a 4-11-1 season, possibly without neither starting safeties available for the season opener. Jalen Mills signed with the Patriots, and Rodney McLeod is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in December.
"It was all about playing football," Harris said. "You can only really go one year at a time. I just really let my agent handle it and do his job in terms of picking out whether multi-year deal, one year deal, but ultimately I’m excited to be here.
But there is still much work to do. If McLeod isn't ready, the Eagles will need another starter at safety, whether that's the relatively inexperienced Marcus Epps or K'Von Wallace, a rookie last season, or Andrew Adams, a veteran with little starting experience who signed last week.
The Eagles are also looking for another starter at cornerback opposite Darius Slay, and that player might not come until the draft, assuming a cornerback is taken in the early rounds.
Avonte Maddox started on the outside last season. But he was injured for a good part of the season and didn't play particularly well when he was healthy. At 5-foot-9, Maddox might be better suited as the nickel corner.
There's also a new coaching staff led by head coach Nick Sirianni and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
At least Harris has some familiarity with Gannon, who was the Vikings' assistant defensive backs coach from 2015-17, Harris' first three seasons in the NFL.
But Harris, who was undrafted out of Virginia, started just eight games during those three seasons. It wasn't until 2018 that Harris became a full-time starter.
And here, Harris can relate to McLeod, who was his teammate for one season at Virginia. McLeod was also an undrafted free agent, who worked his way into becoming a starter.
"He was a big mentor for me," Harris said. "Coming in right away, he took me under the wing, kind of showed me what it was like to be a player at that level, how he studied the game, how he put in the work outside of what he did with the team.
"To get back with him here in this city, I’m excited for to pair up with him, share knowledge, share stories of our journeys coming together as undrafted free agents."
If it works out, Harris will be a big reason why. If it doesn't, Harris will likely be on the move again, and the Eagles will once again be changing the secondary around.
"In terms of what the roster looks like, or what the record was last year, each year is a new year," Harris said. "Each year we have the opportunity to add pieces and get better. So I’m expecting to come to this season and get to work, build this team up."
The Eagles will need that.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.