Now that free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft draft are (mostly) behind us, it’s time to take a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons’ roster heading in to the summer. Outside of a few additions and subtractions here and there in the course of training camp and the preseason, this is the roster Atlanta will be working with during the 2022 season.
We’ll kick things off with a look at the projected starters and players competing for those spots. Next up is safety. One of the most stable position groups on defense, three of the four safeties who played significant snaps in 2021 are returning for this season: 2021 second-rounder Richie Grant, 2020 fourth-rounder Jaylinn Hawkins, and veteran re-signing Erik Harris.
Next up, veteran re-signing Erik Harris.
S Erik Harris
Contract: $1.05M cap hit in 2022, free agent in 2023
Career Production: 77 games played, 42 games started | 254 total tackles, 195 solo, 7.0 TFL, 1 FF, 0.5 sacks | 28 PD, 5 INT, 2 TD
2021 Production: 12 games played, 12 games started | 64 total tackles, 46 solo, 3.0 TFL, 14.7% MTR | 8 PD, 68.3% completion rate allowed, 98.5 passer rating allowed | 59.7 overall PFF grade
Previous Teams: Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL, 2013-2015), New Orleans Saints (2016), Oakland Raiders (2017-2019), Las Vegas Raiders (2020), Atlanta Falcons (2021-present)
The Falcons needed to dramatically reshape their safety room in 2021, and to do so they brought in veteran starter Erik Harris. Harris has had a long and winding road to a pretty sizable NFL career. He played his college ball at California (Pennsylvania), a D2 school, where he won All-Conference awards twice. After going undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft, Harris was signed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL, where he would play in 45 games over the next few years.
In 2016, the New Orleans Saints signed Harris to a reserve/future contract on the recommendation of Delvin Breaux, another CFL standout. He would make the final roster but wound up on IR early in the season. Harris then signed with Oakland, where he would spent the next five years as a reserve and then a full-time starter beginning in 2019. That all led to a one-year deal with Atlanta in 2021, where Harris would win the starting job out of training camp.
Harris beat all expectations last season, performing as one of Atlanta’s most reliable safeties and outperforming fellow veteran Duron Harmon and second-round rookie Richie Grant. He played a versatile role and was on his way to his best NFL season before suffering a season-ending injury against Carolina in Week 14. While many fans were frustrated by a plethora of dropped picks by Harris, he made up for it with strong run defense and 8 PD. Atlanta re-signed Harris for the 2022 season despite his injury, which means he’ll be in the mix for snaps once again.
Projection: Erik Harris brings a great deal of veteran experience and versatility to the secondary, along with a year in Pees’ scheme. I’d expect Harris to take a back seat to Grant/Hawkins, but he should still have a significant rotational and special teams role.