Eagles Make More Moves in Secondary, Release Harris

Anthony Harris

Getty The Eagles and safety Anthony Harris have parted ways.

The Philadelphia Eagles released safety Anthony Harris from their practice squad less than a week after signing him to it, the team announced. The Eagles also signed cornerback Mac McCain to their practice squad. The decision to terminate the contract with Harris was mutual, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Harris signed a one-year contract in Philadelphia last year and started 14 games, then inked a second one-year deal with the Birds and had been expected to start this season as well. That changed when the Eagles traded for defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who they plan to have in the starting lineup for their season opener.

While Gardner-Johnson primarily played nickel cornerback with the Saints, he’s expected to play free safety with the Eagles. The upgrade gives the Eagles a strong secondary, with one former NFL general manager saying “they found their best five.”

After acquiring Gardner-Johnson, the Eagles released Harris, then re-signed him to their practice squad the next day. That created a $2.4 million dead money cap hit, according to Spotrac. Releasing him from the practice squad will have no cap implications.

As a practice squad player, Harris was already free to sign with any other team to their active roster, so the explanation given to Schefter about flexibility doesn’t seem totally clear.

McCain Back in Philadelphia

McCain is back for his second stint with the Eagles, having bounced between Philadelphia and Denver. McCain was undrafted out of North Carolina A&T in 2021, and signed with the Broncos, eventually landing on their practice squad. Days later, the Eagles signed him to their active roster and he played on special teams, appearing in two games.

The Birds released McCain on November 9 last year, and the next day the Broncos reclaimed him off waivers. Denver proceeded to waive him two weeks later, and Philadelphia snatched him back the next day.

The Eagles would go-on to waive him themselves two weeks later, before signing McCain to their practice squad. After the season, McCain signed a reserve/future contract with Philadelphia, and was waived this year during roster cutdowns on August 30.

McCain has the physical measurables to make it in the NFL, standing 6’0″ tall and weighing 186 pounds. The former North Carolina A&T Aggie ran a 4.45 40-yard-dash on his pro day.

Lots of Turnover in Secondary

The Eagles have almost completely reworked their secondary from last season. With Harris now officially gone, three of the four starters in the secondary have been jettisoned. Safety Rodney McLeod and cornerback Steve Nelson were both allowed to depart in free agency.

That makes Darius Slay the only returning starter in the secondary from an Eagles defense that gave up the 11th fewest passing yards per game last year at 221. They didn’t create many turnovers in the passing game, though, with the 21st best interception rate in the league at just 2.04%.

The Eagles appear to have replaced the departing defensive backs with better playmakers in terms of forcing turnovers. Nelson (1), McLeod (2) and Harris (1) only combined for four interceptions last year.

They’re replaced by a trio that combined for eight interceptions last season. Marcus Epps, who has fought his way into the starting lineup at safety, had one pick last year in limited action. Cornerback James Bradberry, who signed in free agency, had four interceptions with the Giants last season, while Gardner-Johnson tallied three picks with the Saints.

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