The Eagles finally waded into the free-agent market in a meaningful way, reportedly agreeing to terms with veteran safety Anthony Harris on a one-year, $5 million deal.
Harris, 29, played his first six seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and was widely considered the second-best safety on the market behind Broncos’ defensive back Justin Simmons, who got a one-year, $13 million contract to stay in Denver on Friday.
Harris was Pro Football Focus’ second-ranked safety in 2019, but regressed a bit last year in the same defensive grading metric, finishing 38th. His six interceptions tied for the league lead in 2019. He didn’t have any last season, but he did record 104 total tackles and had seven pass breakups, according to PFF.
He projects as a solid fit in new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s scheme, which figures to employ more split-safety formations and less single-high looks than the Eagles have used in the past. Gannon was Harris’ assistant defensive backs coach in Minnesota from 2015-17.
The Eagles had a glaring need at safety, exacerbated by the departure of Jalen Mills, who agreed to a four-year deal on Monday with the New England Patriots worth up to $24 million. Rodney McLeod, the other starting safety from last year, tore his ACL last December and presumably won’t be available by the season opener. K’Von Wallace and Marcus Epps are both healthy and under contract for next year, but neither have much experience.
Earlier Friday, the Eagles were linked to another free agent defensive back. It’s unclear if Harris’ new deal will force them to change plans, but ESPN reported that former Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson is expected to visit with the Eagles on Monday.
The 2017 first-round pick met with the Giants on Friday before meeting with the Birds. Jackson was released by Tennessee earlier this week to avoid his fifth-year option kicking in.
Jackson, 25, was sidelined for most of the 2020 season because of a knee injury, but he has started 41 games in four seasons with the Titans. Before last season, he had played well, recording 34 pass breakups, but only two interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus.
If the Eagles can find a way to maneuver the salary cap to still pursue Jackson, it would make sense to try. The team has Darius Slay holding down one side of the field, but finding a steady option opposite the veteran corner was a problem last year. At 5-foot-9, Maddox tried, but struggled at times and would seemingly benefit from returning to the slot next season. Jackson has played both on the outside and inside.
Jackson’s expected price remains to be seen. William Jackson set the cornerback market on Wednesday, agreeing to a three-year, $40.5 million deal with the Washington Football Team. The Eagles will likely have to hope Jackson’s price is closer to that of Mike Hilton, who signed a four-year deal worth $24 million with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Former Eagles find homes elsewhere
The Eagles are officially on the punter market.
Cameron Johnston, the team’s punter for the last three seasons, agreed to deal with the Houston Texans for three years and $8 million. Like every other member of the Eagles’ special teams, 2020 wasn’t pretty for Johnston.
He had several head-scratching punts, leading to the Eagles choosing not to offer a restricted free-agent tender to him, which let him test the open market.
It turned out to be a busy evening for former Eagles, with linebacker Duke Riley agreeing to a deal with the Miami Dolphins and defensive tackle Malik Jackson getting picked up by the Cleveland Browns.
JuJu stays put
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster agreed to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a one-year, $8 million contract, reportedly taking less money to stay with the team that drafted him. ESPN initially reported the Eagles were one of the teams that offered Smith-Schuster a long-term contract for more money, but it was quickly walked back, saying the Eagles’ involvement was limited to Smith-Schuster’s agent calling the team to gauge its interest. According to a league source, the Eagles never made an offer to Smith-Schuster’s camp.
The Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs were also reportedly interested in signing the former USC standout, but it’s safe to say his market was lighter than expected. Smith-Schuster’s age (24) combined with production -- he had 97 catches for 831 yards and nine touchdowns last year -- would suggest he’d get more than he signed for. By comparison, Corey Davis, 25, had 65 catches for 984 yards and five touchdowns season and got a three-year, $37.5 million deal from the New York Jets.