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Not cashing in: Anthony Harris takes substantial pay cut in move from Vikings to Eagles

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings free safety Anthony Harris (41) is unable to make an interception against the Detroit Lions during the first quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Harris’ timing appeared to be fantastic. Turns out, it couldn’t have been worse.

The safety had tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions in 14 games in 2019 and looked set to either hit free agency or get a rich contract extension from the Vikings. But the Vikings and Harris could not reach an agreement on a long-term extension and the team did not want to lose the veteran. The Vikings used the franchise tag on Harris, meaning he would earn $11.44 million on a one-year contract.

A report surfaced last July that the Vikings and Giants had engaged in trade discussions regarding Harris but nothing materialized. Harris, who had gone from signing with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2015 to a valuable starter alongside Harrison Smith, still looked to be in a good spot. He would be extremely well compensated for one season and then get another chance to hit free agency.

That’s when things started to go wrong. The Vikings went from 10-6 and a playoff victory over New Orleans in 2019 — Harris added another interception in the overtime win — to a 7-9 season in which Harris started all 16 games and did not have an interception for the first time since he started only three games in 2017. Harris’ opportunity of cashing in decreased even more when the pandemic caused the 2021 NFL salary cap to decrease 8 percent to $182.5 million.

There was buzz that Harris’ representatives were talking to the Vikings as NFL free agency got underway this week but that didn’t last long. The only report regarding Harris came on Thursday when Darren Wolfson of SKOR North and KSTP-TV tweeted that Harris had switched agents and now was represented by Drew Rosenhaus.

On Friday, Harris’ new agent found him a job but it came at quite the discount. The 29-year-old reportedly had agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. If Harris bounces back with a strong season he figures to make far more on the open market next March. But this still wasn’t how anyone expected things to play out.

In retrospect, you have to wonder what type of offers (likely a draft pick) the Vikings received in trade talks involving Harris last summer. The theory was the Vikings weren’t going to deal Harris for anything less than a third-round pick because that’s what they expected to get as draft-pick compensation for him departing. Now, it appears the Vikings might get nothing.

The Vikings, meanwhile, are left looking for a safety to pair with Smith. Will Parks, whom the Vikings put in a waiver claim for last season when he was let go by Philadelphia, is a free agent after finishing 2020 with the Denver Broncos. Andrew Sendejo, who already has had two stints with the Vikings, also is available.

Harris isn’t the only familiar player to depart Minnesota in recent days. Longtime Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph signed a reported two-year deal worth up to $14 million with the New York Giants on Thursday, and left tackle Riley Reiff signed a reported one-year deal with Cincinnati on Friday that has $5.5 million in guarantees and could be worth as much as $7.5 million. Both Rudolph and Reiff were let go by the Vikings to create more salary cap space. Reiff will move from left to right tackle with the Bengals.