NFL Free Agency Grade: Bills signing Damien Harris earn a top grade

Damien Harris (Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)
Damien Harris (Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports) /

On Tuesday, the Buffalo Bills added variety to their running back room when they officially inked Damien Harris to a one-year deal. The former New England Patriot brings a gritty, power-like running style, to a backfield that already includes James Cook and Nyheim Hines.

Harris is likely in line to get a lot of goal-line touches and short-yardage work. In years past, the Bills have struggled in those areas and called upon their superstar $250 million-dollar quarterback, Josh Allen, to get the dirty yards. Harris can handle that role and grind defenses down, just like he has done to the Bills thus far in his career.

Buffalo Bills earn a B+ grade for the Damien Harris signing

Damien Harris is everything the Buffalo Bills hoped former third-round pick, Zack Moss, was going to be. While second-year man, James Cook, looks set to be the lead back in the Buffalo running back stable, Harris will be a top-notch compliment to him; which is one of the reasons for a B+ grade on the signing.

Cook has a more finesse-like running style and a skill for running routes out of the backfield. After Cook jukes you out of your cleats, Harris is going to try and run right through you. When it gets late in the season, in the cold and snow in Buffalo, you need to have a power running game. One of the downfalls of the Bills the past two years has been no one to lean on at times like that. Harris slips in perfectly.

Harris’ contract appears to be a steal

According to NFL reporter, Ari Meirov, Harris’ one-year deal with Buffalo is for an extremely team-friendly base value of $1.7 million. For perspective, the Bills’ number one back for the past four years, Devin Singletary, just signed a one-year deal worth up to $3.75 million with the Houston Texans.

In 38 career games, Harris has rushed for 2,094 yards, 20 touchdowns, and averaged 55.1 yards a game, on a 4.7 yards-per-attempt average. According to Thad Brown, Harris has scored on 10 of his last 11 carries from the three-yard line or closer.

In 2021, Pro Football Focus graded Harris as the best overall running back in the NFL late into the season. With his previous production, and still only 26 years old, Harris is an absolute bargain at $1.7 million.

Damien Harris does bring injury concerns

In all honesty, the only reason this grade isn’t an A is that Harris does have injury concerns. Harris is coming off an injury-riddled season that saw him only play in 11 games and carrying a reduced workload in most of those that he did play in.

However, it is a low-risk, high-reward situation for Buffalo because of the great numbers on his contract. Harris is looking to prove he can stay healthy this year to earn a bigger deal next offseason. Being the complimentary back, in a pass-heavy offense, should keep Harris fresher than ever, especially down the stretch of the season; which is when the Bills will need his hard-nosed running style the most.

Harris can’t be a Buffalo Bills killer if he’s on the team

A cherry on top of this signing, the Bills don’t have to play Harris this year. Since joining the Patriots, he has killed Buffalo. Harris has gone for over 100 yards in three out of four career games versus Buffalo. In those games, he’s also tacked on five rushing touchdowns.

Hopefully, Harris can translate that type of production for Buffalo when they play his former team and division rival.

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