Falcons agree to terms with safety Erik Harris

The Falcons agreed to terms on a contact with veteran safety Erik Harris, the AJC confirmed through a person with knowledge of the situation.

Harris spent the previous four seasons with the Raiders in Oakland and Las Vegas. In 2020, Harris totaled 61 tackles and five pass deflections. Before joining the Raiders, Harris spent the 2016 season with the New Orleans Saints, which is where Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot spent his previous 18 years in the NFL. Undrafted out of Division II program California (Pa.) in 2012, Harris’ spent time with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 2013-15.

With the Raiders, Harris totaled 189 tackles and two interceptions. He became a mainstay on the Raiders’ defense in recent seasons, starting 26 of 30 games over the past two seasons.

Because of issues pertaining to the salary cap, the Falcons cut safety Ricardo Allen to clear $6.25 million off of the cap. They also were unable to re-sign Damontae Kazee, who was told he would hit free agency. Kazee has reportedly received interest from the Dallas Cowboys, where former Falcons coach Dan Quinn is now the defensive coordinator.

Safety Keanu Neal also is on the free-agent market after five years with the Falcons. The New York Jets are reportedly interested in Neal, with former Falcons defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich holding the same position there.

Harris joins Jaylinn Hawkins, a fourth-round draft selection in 2020, as the only safeties on the roster. T.J. Green, who spent last season on the Falcons’ practice squad, is listed by the team as a defensive back. He could play safety.

Only recently did the Falcons get under the NFL’s $182.5 million salary cap for the 2021 season, which came after restructuring quarterback Matt Ryan’s contract. Earlier this offseason, Fontenot said the front office would need to find great value in free agency to address the immediate team needs.

“We’re going to have to make some hard decisions on some players on this roster, and we’re going to have to earn job as scouts,” Fontenot said. “We’re scouts, right? We’re going to have to find players because you can’t just build your roster with overpaid players in free agency or top draft picks. We have to really dig and find value in free agency. That’s working with the coaches and finding exactly what they need and going and finding the players that they need. That’s throughout the entire draft and that’s in undrafted free agency. So, we have to be scouts and go find good players that can really fit the make-up and profile that we are looking for.”