It was unclear how many of last offseason’s one-year signings would return to the Falcons in 2022, but you had to figure some would. That was particularly true at safety, where the team never really fully invested in Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins as starters last year and figured to want to re-add either Duron Harmon or Erik Harris to compete with them this year.
We’ll see on Harmon, but Harris is coming back, per NFL insider Tom Pelissero.
Safety Erik Harris is going back to #Falcons on a one-year deal, source said.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 23, 2022
Harris, who will be 32 pretty soon, wound up starting 12 of the first 13 games for the Falcons in 2021 and only missed the final four due to an injury. He’s presumably well on his way to being healthy if he’s being re-signed. In those 12 games, Harris picked up a half sack, 8 pass deflections and 64 combined tackles, delivering competence in coverage and against the run. He did miss several tackles and was not able to corral multiple interceptions, which earned him the enmity of a significant chunk of the fanbase, but he mixed that in with some big hits and was recognized by teammates as a leader for the defense. Dean Pees and the Falcons clearly liked him, which is why he’s coming back.
It’s unclear right now where he’ll slot in on the depth chart, but we weeks until the NFL Draft and months before training camp, so that clarity will come with time. If Harris is the team’s third or fourth safety this year, it will mean either Atlanta’s done some upgrading to the position group or Hawkins and Grant have made major strides. Either outcome would be great and would mean Harris would be a steady veteran presence and ready-to-roll reserve for Atlanta, which would make this a fine signing. If they have to press him into service as a starter again it’s not the ideal outcome for this defense, but Harris has shown he’s comfortable stepping into that role and can deliver solid games when he’s asked to. Especially for the contract he’s likely to have gotten, there’s little doubt Harris will find a way to provide value to the defense and on special teams, where he routinely chipped in last season.
Welcome Erik Harris back to the Falcons, if you would.