Damien Harris Free Agency Best Fits: Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, and Atlanta Could Be in Pursuit

Damien Harris Free Agency Best Fits: Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, and Atlanta Could Be in Pursuit

The 2023 NFL free agency period is firing off at a breakneck pace. While some players will return to their current teams, most players, especially the larger names, will look for a potential new landing spot, as is the case with RB Damien Harris. As one of the biggest names at his position after spending his rookie contract with the New England Patriots, what are some possible landing spots for Harris for the 2023 season?

Damien Harris Free Agency Best Fits

With his rookie contract set to expire, Harris is slated to hit free agency as part of an extensive list of available running backs. But Harris’ career has not gone quite as some thought it might when he was dominating at Georgia.

Injuries made it difficult for Harris to stay on the field through his career and, in the end, likely cost him his job. Consequently, Harris probably isn’t in line for a significant payday this offseason. He missed six games of the 2022 season due to injury and ran for 462 yards and three touchdowns on 106 carries while also catching 17 passes (23 targets) for 97 yards.

According to Spotrac, Harris carries an estimated market value of $7.1 million AAV on a three-year deal, which honestly feels high to me, given the current market. As a two-down back with TD upside, Harris will certainly find himself a new home, as there is always a role for players who can get the tough and dirty yards.

Tampa Bay Could Look to Damien Harris as a Way To Help the Depth Chart

With the pending release of Leonard Fournette, the Buccaneers have a gap to fill on their depth chart. Rachaad White saw his role grow in 2022, especially over the back half, but he saw the bulk of his production in the receiving game, catching 50 of 58 targets for 290 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie.

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However, White is not a bruising rusher or one who tends to absorb contact well despite his size. This is where Harris becomes a logical fit. He could serve as the short-area specialist and also be the primary goal-to-go back for the Bucs, while White is the dynamic, receiving, and change-of-pace RB for the offense. So long as Harris can stay healthy, Tampa Bay would be one of the best fits for his skills and the needs of a team.

A Return to New England Is Not Out of the Question for Harris

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

“If they want to have me, I’d love to come back,” Harris said back in January. “But at the end of the day, I know this is a business. I know that this organization is going to do what they feel is best for them, and at the end of the day, I’ve got to do what I feel like is best for me.”

New England has a couple of younger running backs in Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr., who could step into a larger role in 2023. But from a skill-set standpoint, the combination of Rhamondre Stevenson and Harris is the more talented option, and the only hangup from this happening was Harris’ health.

Harris can also help keep Stevenson as fresh as possible, given the length of the NFL calendar. Of the three backs, Harris is the one who can take on a bulk of the rushes if needed. Rather than an every-down player, Harris is best viewed as a perfect security blanket for the Patriots as they try to get their franchise back to where it once was and compete in the AFC East.

Atlanta Could Look to Harris During Free Agency

If we are considering the best fits for Harris, the Atlanta Falcons become an interesting name. It’s clear that head coach Arthur Smith wants to build a rushing, focused attack similar to what he was a part of with the Tennessee Titans.

Last season, 2022 fifth-round pick Tyler Allgeier was one of the most surprising successes as the rookie out of BYU was one of just two RBs to surpass 1,000 yards. Atlanta also has Cordarrelle Patterson operating as the receiving threat, which would give the Falcons a three-headed attack that can keep them fresh for longer.

Although Harris adds absolutely nothing as a receiver, he would be an easy fill-in to spell Allgeier without the offense needing to change its overall philosophy. It would also take unnecessary hits and reps off Patterson, who is nearing the end of his career.

Could Damien Harris Help Fill the Potential Void Left by a Departing Austin Ekeler?

One team I did not expect to be talking about in the RB conversation was the Los Angeles Chargers. However, it has been reported that the latest contract negotiations “failed to progress,” according to ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry. Due to this, Austin Ekeler has been given permission to seek a trade.

The 27-year-old RB has been one of the most efficient running backs in the modern NFL. Ekeler has surpassed 900 scrimmage yards in each of the last five years but took his game to another level over the previous two. In 33 games between 2021 and 2022, Ekeler compiled 3,195 yards from scrimmage with a whopping 38 touchdowns.

There is no one player out there on the market who could replace the value of Ekeler. It will take a combined effort of multiple running backs with different styles who will each need to pick up a specific aspect of his game.

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Isaiah Spiller, a rookie in 2022, lost a ton of the hype he was carrying while at Texas A&M, and it is yet to be seen what he will do in the NFL. But as part of the committee, I think he does bring some value. However, who will take the bulk of the carries and do the dirty work?

That’s where someone like Harris fits in as the two-down RB for the Chargers, while Spiller can be more of the change of pace and receiving option. It’s also worth considering Joshua Kelley, who had 69 rushes and 25 targets last year, as an additional chess piece for Los Angeles. Still, Harris would make the most sense as the lead back unless Spiller has taken a significant step from Year 1 to Year 2.