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Should I Stay Or Should I Go? Anthony Harris

Looking at upcoming roster positions on key personnel

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook -USA TODAY Sports

DN you got to let me know...should I stay or should I go?

—The Clash (almost)

Howdy, and I hope your Monday isn’t as bad as we anticipate it usually will be. We roll on with our SISOSIG series, and I hope you’re enjoying it. If you’re not, but still clicked here...hate clicks are better than no clicks, amirite?

Today is our fifth installment, and in looking over the players we’ve talked about, we’re closing in on the end of this series. If you missed any of the other ones up until this point, you can check them out here:

Read about Linval Joseph here.

Read about Everson Griffen here.

Read about Xavier Rhodes here.

Read about Trae Waynes here.

Today, the topic is S Anthony Harris.

2020 Salary Cap (and dead money): Free Agent

Should I Stay?

You can make an exceptionally strong case to keep Harris. If you believe the PFF grades, in 2018 he was the fifth best overall safety (Harrison Smith was 16), and this past year he was third overall (Smith was fourth), and the highest rated defensive player on the team. With Harris and Smith at the back end of the secondary, you can say, without much hyperbole, that they are the best safety tandem in the NFL. He tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with six, and had seven total, including the one in the playoff win against the Saints. He’s had 10 interceptions in the last two years, also tops on the Vikings, and is a sound tackler. His development has been fun to watch, and together, Smith and Harris do a strong job of helping in coverage when the cornerbacks faltered.

At 28 years old, he’s in the middle of his prime seasons, and getting him back on the roster should be a priority for the Vikings, especially when you consider the status of cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander.

Should I Go?

We’ve already talked about Rhodes and Waynes, and Alexander will be up next. Look folks, I just don’t see how Minnesota will be able to bring back all of these secondary starters, so you’re going to have to prioritize who you want. To determine that, you need to prioritize what position is more important, cornerback or safety. Then you have to ask how much you can realistically afford.

How you prioritize the positions is up to you, and I’m not going to tell you how to scramble your eggs. My personal belief is that CB is more important, so I am okay with Harris leaving, at least from that perspective. If you want Harris back, I would imagine it means two of the three CB’s mentioned won’t be back. Is that an absolute certainty? No, because Rob Brzezinski is a salary cap wizard and anything is possible (see the Sheldon Richardson signing when the Vikes were ‘broke’ after signing Kirk Cousins a couple years back), but this year is different.

Because there’s a Catch-22 in all of this: To get the cap space needed to make a run at Harris, the Vikings will have to probably cut or-restructure the Rhodes contract while declining to pursue either Waynes or Alexander in free agency, if not both, and you won’t have enough money to get them all back.

The reason for that is the contract Harris is probably going to command once free agency comes along. Spotrac pegs his market value at an annual average salary of $13.8 million/yr. When you factor in the average annual salaries of Waynes and Alexander (both $8.4 mil/yr, also per Spotrac), my Minnesota and Ohio public school math tells me it’s going to cost around $30-31 mil to get all three of them back under contract.

If the Vikings free up that much cap space and somehow manage to keep everyone, they won’t be able to do much of anything else in free agency, and will have to address the rest of their needs in the draft.

One option the Vikings could consider is either the franchise or the transition tag. The franchise tag for Harris would cost $12.7 million, which is over a million dollars cheaper than a market value contract. A transition tag is ‘only’ $10.8 million, and it’s essentially a right of first refusal option for the Vikings. A team could sign Harris to an offer sheet, and the Vikings could choose to match the offer or let him walk.

Both those numbers are steep, but it’s still cheaper than a new, multiyear contract at the current annual average market value contract, and could give the Vikes juuuuuust enough wiggle room to take care of a different free agency need or two. However, if the Vikings pursue Harris, they could backload a multiyear deal, making the cap hit in 2020 more manageable than a franchise or transition tag. The trade off to that is bigger cap implications down the road, but for these purposes I’m not worried about down the road.

If history is any indication, though, the Vikings won’t use either tag. Minnesota has only put the franchise tag on two players, Jim Kleinsasser and Chad Greenway, and it hasn’t been used since Rick Spielman was named full time GM in 2012. Kleinsasser was tagged in 2003, and Greenway in 2011, in case you were wondering. They have used the transition tag once, on Nate Burleson, and it was the last battle of the famed Steve Hutchinson ‘Poison Pill’ War.

To me, the decision seems to be either Harris and one of Waynes/Alexander, or Waynes and Alexander but not Harris.

What would you do?


Should Anthony Harris stay or go?

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