Anthony Harris didn’t have the most paved road to becoming one of the NFL’s top safeties.
After Harris, a top-five safety prospect, surprisingly went undrafted in 2015, the Minnesota Vikings took a chance on the Virginia product who was coming off a torn labrum injury that required surgery.
It paid dividends as Harris, after four seasons as a reserve, snagged a league-leading six interceptions in 2019, earning him a franchise tag with the Vikings in 2020. Minnesota did not re-sign Harris with other positions to address this offseason. He recently signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, ending his five-year career in Minnesota.
Moving on from the only team he’s played with in the NFL, Harris, 29, bid the Vikings, fans and his teammates a fond farewell on Instagram.
Here’s what he wrote along with a slideshow of several moments of his time in Minnesota:
It’s been hard deciding how or where I wanted to start, so I figured I’d start with, thank you. First I’d like to say thank you to the entire Wilf family, for blessing me with the opportunity to play in the NFL. Not only has it been a blessing to me, but to my family as well. I’d also like to thank the entire Minnesota Viking staff for all their efforts to help me grow not only as a player but also as an individual. To the fan base and community of Minnesota, I greatly appreciate you embracing, encouraging, and supporting me. You made MN a place where my family and friends felt welcomed and excited to come visit. To the guys I had the opportunity to share a locker room with during my time in Minnesota, I thank you all for helping create a special place in my heart for Minnesota. The memories I’ve had with you all on and off the field are ones I’ll never forget and will forever be grateful for. As I take this walk on a new journey, I look back one last time and say “thank you”.
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Harris Resurfaced as a Top Safety Prospect With Vikings
Harris, ranked a top-five safety in the 2015 NFL Draft, earned All-American honors after leading the nation with eight interceptions his junior season. He tallied a career-high 108 tackles his senior season at Virginia, later discovering he had a torn labrum that required surgery and hurt his draft stock.
Harris was projected to go as high as the second round but, instead, went undrafted.
The Vikings saw promise in Harris and signed the rookie immediately to a three-year deal. He worked his way into a replacement starter role after 12 games on the practice squad and continued to develop as a backup behind Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo.
Finally, Harris got his chance in 2019 — and he showed out. Harris tied for the league-lead six interceptions that season as the Vikings opened 2020 with the top safety tandem in the league.
The combination of Harris and Smith was short-lived, however, Harris has maintained the impact Minnesota has had on him.
“I’ve been here my entire career,” Harris said in an end-of-season press conference. “It’s been great from everything down to the locker room to the executives, the coaches, to the city itself and how it’s treated me and my family. It definitely holds a special place with me.”
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Vikings Eyeing Eagles Safety to Replace Harris
Star Tribune reporter Ben Goessling reported that the Vikings have been in contact with former Eagles safety Will Parks. Parks split time with the Eagles and Denver Broncos this past season, earning a 57.5 Pro Football Focus position grade in 10 games.
Parks is by no means a replacement to Harris but more fittingly a depth add. While Harris’ departure leaves a level of shock in a secondary that is still rebuilding, the writing was on the wall for Harris.
Last offseason, Mike Zimmer spoke upon the possibility of Harris receiving a new contract before the franchise tag deadline and was not optimistic about Harris’ longevity with the team.
“If you put up the positions most important on defense it’s probably not going to be safety,” signaling the team might be prepared to let Harris walk before he signed his franchise tag.”
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