Detroit picked up safety Duron Harmon and a seventh round pick for a fifth round pick, and while many might not understand how important that move was, it could be the play which ends up helping the Lions take things to the next level in what feels like a make or break season in 2020.
Not only is Harmon a great player with a knack for the clutch given his nickname “The Closer” and interception total, he’s a phenomenal leader who can serve as the heartbeat of the secondary. That’s important for the team now that Darius Slay is also moving on.
After the trade was revealed, Harmon made the media rounds and should have made quite the impression on Lions fans with his words and his humility. Here’s a look at some of the quotes Harmon shared:
Those are the kind of players the Lions need more of in the locker room, and what the team is trying to build towards. When folks scoff at more Patriots coming into the mix, they assume mere nepotism. The reality is, Matt Patricia is trying to cultivate his own culture based on understanding. Someone like Harmon can continue to bridge that gap for everyone else and lead by example.
Slay himself didn’t seem ready to lead by example whatsoever. He preferred to hold a grudge against Patricia over an isolated incident. That’s not the type of locker room influence that is going to get the Lions over the top in an important season. Thus, it was easy for the team to decide he needed to move on.
Credit the Lions for adding just the right type of teammate to bring together what figures to be a changed group. Desmond Trufant is coming into the mix, as is Jayron Kearse. It’s possible the Lions draft a few defensive backs as well. The team also has young, impressionable players like Tracy Walker and Will Harris getting set to come into their own.
Exposing them to a leader like Harmon will only serve to make things better, and could be a huge positive for the group in a season in which much has changed and to the naked eye, the bottom could fall out. Think of Harmon as the next generation’s Glover Quin.
Plenty has changed this offseason for the Lions already, and plenty will continue to change. Harmon brings a fresh approach, a scheme fit and a fit with the staff that is admirable. To that end, don’t be surprised if he isn’t the team’s most important offseason addition.
Duron Harmon Stats
Harmon, nicknamed “The Closer” thanks to his penchant for coming up with big plays late in games, has been a player who has been a big-play threat on the back end for New England for years. He’s put together 175 tackles, 17 interceptions and 28 pass deflections for the Patriots in his career.
Harmon joined the Patriots out of Rutgers as a third-round selection in 2013. He’s played his whole career in New England, so it’s safe to say that the move to Detroit was a shock. Harmon has handled it about as well as could be expected, though.
Lions Defense named Free Agency Winner
One side of the ball that needed the most change was the defense. After a horrible pair of seasons under Matt Patricia, there’s already been some big changes on that side of the ball. How will that impact the team when all is said and done? The returns will be very positive if this new piece is to be right.
In a piece breaking down some winners and losers of free agency, Pro Football Focus and writer Ben Linsey took a closer look at what the Lions have done, and found them to be a winner. Here’s a look at what he wrote on that:
“The spotlight is on Darius Slay, particularly after he publicly acknowledged last night that he wants out of Detroit, and as of Thursday morning, a deal has been put in place to send Slay to the Eagles. That is not ideal for the Lions. Despite the down year from a grading standpoint in 2019 (56.4 PFF grade), Slay remains one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. During the five-year stretch from 2014 to 2018, he ranked eighth among qualifying cornerbacks in overall grade, and he routinely draws shadow assignments against the opposing team’s best wide receiver, making those results all-the-more impressive.
As all that trade speculation took place, the Lions went about improving their coverage to soften the blow of his inevitable loss. They signed former New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins, a player who has been outstanding in coverage and as a blitzer for New England over his career but struggled when traded to the Cleveland Browns. He’s an intriguing option for a Lions team that needed an injection of talent into their linebacking corps. The hope is that the transition to Matt Patricia’s defense is smoother than the one Collins made four seasons ago in Cleveland.
Detroit then addressed the secondary with two more moves, trading for Patriots safety Duron Harmon (shocker, I know) and signing former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant. Both players were drafted in 2013, and neither has recorded an overall grade of 65.0 or lower over the course of their NFL careers, rarely dipping below 70.0.
Harmon has been a rangy playmaker on the back end of the Patriots’ defense at free safety. He is one of just eight safeties with 10 or more regular-season interceptions over the past three seasons. Trufant is a 6-foot cornerback who came into the NFL with sub-4.4 speed, and he figures to fit well into a Lions defense that plays a lot of press-man coverage. He’s not quite the same player as Slay, but he has shown in Atlanta that he is fully capable of being the No. 1 guy on the outside. Both players, along with Collins, should improve the Lions coverage in 2020 despite the loss of their top player.”
The Lions still theoretically have a hole at pass rusher and could need another cornerback. All those issues can be straightened out in the draft, which could help the Lions over the top in terms of getting their most important side of the ball turned around.
It’s possible folks could be looking back on the Harmon addition next year as the one which helped the Lions’ defense fix things and change the narrative.
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