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Falcons free agent profiles: Duron Harmon

Should the starting safety return?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

2021 Stats

17 games

67 tackles, 2 interceptions, 5 passes defended, 2 TFL

The case for signing Harmon

Harmon has a lot of qualities this team seemingly looked for in 2021: He is a warm body. That is not to overlook his skillset. Harmon is a competent player who played 92% of the defensive snaps in 2021. That is hard to replace. He also missed a pretty small percentage of his tackles (2.9%). He made a few plays in those extensive snaps.

Thanks in part to his age (31 in the 2022 season), Harmon should come in cheap.

The case against signing Harmon

Harmon teeters right along the line of starter talent vs. backup talent. The problem is that if Harmon is the starter, you spend the season thinking that is a position to upgrade. Entering his age-31 season, there is no expectation for a sudden improvement. What we saw is what we got.

Of course, this is the sort of player a team with cap issues is able to sign late in the offseason, which is what happened in 2021.

PFF generally agrees, giving Harmon a 59.1 grade across 2021. He allowed 72.5% of passes in his coverage for an unappealing 13.6 yards per completion and 99.3 opposing quarterback ranking. That is not great, with the expectation pass coverage skills will diminish as players over 30 tend to lose foot speed.

There is very limited upside with Harmon.

The verdict: Toss-up

The best case scenario for the Falcons is Harmon does not again play 92% of the defensive snaps. As noted above, Harmon is the guy you want to upgrade but are not forced into it. While the Falcons may need to upgrade on Jalen Mayfield, Harmon could start if Plan A, Plan B, and even Plan C fail.

For Harmon, I think he would be a valuable backup. He knows the scheme and the plays which should make him a great “bridge” player, or someone who can fill in for a few games if a starter gets hurt. At the same time, the Falcons do not need to be in a rush to bring him back. Terry Fontenot can and should scour available free agents, and sign the best and cheapest one, perhaps after free agent signing are no longer calculated into compensatory picks.

However, if Harmon is back, there must be some competition for the starting spot. Whether that is via another free agent or a rookie is hard to plan. Hence, Harmon could be a great backup plan if the Falcons can’t land another starting safety late into free agency.