Falcons Signing Former Raiders, Saints Safety: Report

Erik Harris

Christian Petersen/Getty Images Free safety Erik Harris of the Las Vegas Raiders during an NFL game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium on December 17, 2020.

Earlier in the offseason, the Atlanta Falcons made it known that they would not be franchising safety Keanu Neal, nor would they make an attempt to re-sign safety Damontae Kazee. On Thursday, Atlanta started the process of re-stocking its safety room, reportedly coming to a contract agreement with former Raiders, Saints, and CFL safety Erik Harris. The report comes courtesy of Vic Tafur, who covers the Las Vegas Raiders for The Athletic.

Terms of the contract have not yet been revealed.

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Erik Harris’ Connection to Terry Fontenot

Harris—6-foot-2, 226 pounds—went undrafted after playing his college football at Division II California University of Pennsylvania. So he signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in April 2013 and played three seasons at linebacker in the CFL, appearing in 45 games.

He performed well enough to earn a chance with the New Orleans Saints, who signed him to a Reserve/Future contract in February 2016, which explains how he was on Terry Fontenot’s radar. He appeared in four games for the Saints that year before tearing his ACL during an October practice, which landed him on season-ending injured reserve.

Harris Found a Home with the Raiders

Harris, 31, caught on with the Oakland Raiders in September 2017 after getting waived by the Saints, where he has spent the last four seasons, starting 30 of 61 total games, with 26 of those starts coming in the last two years. During that time he has amassed 189 total tackles (148 solo), along with five interceptions, 20 passes defensed, four tackles for loss and a pair of quarterback hits.

Last season made 12 starts for the Raiders at free safety while spending 11 days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list towards the end of the season. Yet he contributed 61 total tackles (44 solo) with five passes defensed and one forced fumble, earning an overall grade of 57.0 from Pro Football Focus. He was also on the field for approximately half of all special teams snaps in each of the past two years, even while serving as a starter. His best year came in 2019, when he had 74 tackles and intercepted three passes, returning two of those INTs for touchdowns.

Now he joins 2020 fourth-round pick Jaylinn Hawkins as part of a group that will be charged with replacing Ricardo Allen (who was released a month ago), as well as the aforementioned Neal and Kazee. It remains to be seen if he ends up serving as a starter (a pretty good possibility), or whether he ends up as a top reserve.

Meanwhile, it’s also been reported that unrestricted free agent outside linebacker Brandon Copeland is planning to visit the Falcons later this week. Last year Copeland played for the New England Patriots. Prior to that he spent two seasons (2018-19) with the New York Jets.

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