As we continue our look into the 2021 free agency class, we’ll examine Duron Harmon’s potential compatibility with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With the Bucs having strong youth at the safety position, does pursuing a veteran like Harmon make sense?
Duron Harmon’s Career Thus Far
Harmon played four seasons at Rutgers from 2009-2012, starting every game in two and earning All-Big East honors on both occasions while recording six interceptions. Despite not getting an invitation to the Scouting Combine, the New England Patriots selected Harmon with the 91st overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Harmon largely served in a do-it-all reserve role while contributing spot starts over seven seasons with the Pats. He developed a reputation for clutch interceptions, collecting 17 overall before getting traded to the Detroit Lions last off-season.
He recorded his first season as a full-time player in 2020, starting all 16 games, though it came as part of the NFL’s worst-performing secondary. Despite the ineffective play around him, he managed to pick off two passes to lead the team.
Why It Works
If the Buccaneers would like to add more veteran experience to a still-young unit while shoring up deep coverage, Harmon presents a strong, if not slightly unrealistic option.
Harmon is a true deep safety who understands his role in the defense. You’re probably not going to see him in the box too much, though he’s not totally unfamiliar to it. Before Detroit’s secondary completely imploded down the stretch, Harmon was grading out as a top 5 safety through early November, per Pro Football Focus.
Highest-graded safeties of 2020:— PFF (@PFF) November 12, 2020
1. Jessie Bates III - 90.1
2. Justin Simmons - 81.1
3. Budda Baker - 78.0
4. Duron Harmon - 77.0
5. Jarrod Wilson - 76.0 pic.twitter.com/7zFObJq4KM
His leadership has been heralded throughout his career, as he’s been elected team captain with both New England and Detroit. The Bucs have cultivated a roster full of strong leaders, and that’s something you can never get enough of. He’d also reunite with his former teammate Tom Brady, who could likely vouch for him.
After largely serving as a reserve most of his career, playing no more than 66.3% of total snaps in any given season, Harmon finally got a taste of full-time play and generally handled it well.
He just turned 30, he played 98% of Detroit’s snaps in 2020, and he has missed only one game in his entire career due to injury. As the lone bright spot in Detroit’s horrendous defensive backfield, his starter appeal should be fairly high across the league.
Would Harmon be willing to go back to a reserve role with Tampa, especially when young up-and-comers like Antoine Winfield, Jr. and Mike Edwards are going to handle a large chunk of the playing time? Edwards is especially important to note here, seeing as how he serves the third safety role Harmon did during his New England years.
What’s The Cost?
Harmon just finished out a 4-year deal that paid him an average of $4.25 million. His total cap hit in 2020 was $4.5 million, so he’ll likely be seeking at least a similar figure. Whether that comes as a one-year deal or a multiyear arrangement remains to be seen. Over The Cap has projected a value of roughly $6 million.
The safety market is currently inundated with intriguing options, some of whom fit a similar mold to Harmon. Names include Anthony Harris, Tre Boston, and Malik Hooker. That will likely depress demand, so Harmon could hang around for a while and have his price driven slightly down.
That said, the Buccaneers are currently in the midst of overhauling several contracts to retain some of the most important contributors to their Super Bowl championship, including recent agreements for Chris Godwin and Lavonte David. They might not have the money to spare on a higher-quality player who would likely struggle to see 50% of snaps on the defense as currently constructed.
What We Don’t Know
It’s difficult to say if Tampa would have a place on the roster for someone of Harmon’s particular profile. If they didn’t have Winfield, Jr. and Edwards at free safety, they might be more receptive to the idea, but it currently seems questionable for both parties.
GM Jason Licht and Co. might instead hunt for someone closer to Jordan Whitehead’s archetype - the dime linebacker/box safety. Whitehead currently has just one year left on his deal and the team currently lacks another player like him, so it might make more sense to bring back Adams or select a young player in the draft next month.
Despite the glut of free agent safeties, deep-range center fielders are always popular and Harmon likely can find more starter work as one of the better options available. At the least, he could resume a prominent third safety role with another contender who might currently be more unstable at the position.
Make The Decision
A varied mix of factors appear to be working against Harmon donning the red and pewter, but what do you think? Should the Buccaneers pursue him as a depth upgrade? Let us know via the poll/comment section below!
When it comes to Duron Harmon, what would you have the Buccaneers do?
This poll is closed
Sign him, no matter what
Make an offer, but keep it reasonable
Invite him for a cup of coffee and see how it goes
Call him up if there is still a need after the draft
Don’t need him