Bryce Harper might actually be a solid safety for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Welp, if the 2020 MLB season doesn’t go down – an outcome commissioner Rob Manfred is “not confident” about – it looks like Phillies’ outfielder Bryce Harper has a plan to keep his professional athletic career alive: Move across the South Philadelphia Sports Complex and join the Philadelphia Eagles.
Though not the first time Harper has mused about football, as he’d previously called the sport his first love in an interview with Lane Johnson on his podcast, the Phillies’ $330 million man sent minor shockwaves through the world of Philly sports by posting a picture of himself decked out in pads and a mocked-up, midnight green number 3 jersey on his Instagram story.
Did you miss it? Fortunately, our friend Angel Ibo Castillo (among others) screen grabbed it and posted it on Twitter for the world to see in perpetuity.
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Now just to be clear, Harper isn’t going to play in the NFL. There is precedent, in that players like Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson have tried their hands at both sports to varying degrees of success, but that may as well have been a lifetime ago. There is no way the Phillies’ front office will allow Harper to play a game where one missed tackle could put his baseball career in jeopardy with hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed money, and, frankly, I doubt Harper would even really want to get into the shape needed to play football on a few months notice.
Do you remember when Brock Lesnar tried out for the Minnesota Vikings? How did that one go?
Athletically speaking, if Harper were to try playing football, what position would he even play? In high school, Harper played fullback and outside linebacker. The Eagles don’t use a fullback, I doubt Harper is ready for the physicality of playing linebacker on only a few months notice, so both positions should be effectively eliminated.
In his picture, Harper wore the number 3, which can be worn by kickers, punters, and quarterbacks. While Harper physically looks like an NFL quarterback, I doubt he has the skill set needed to play the position and the Eagles already have three under contract that they really like. Would Harper really go through all this effort to end up a practice squad quarterback or worse, a special teamer?
I doubt it.
No, if Harper were to switch sports and play football, he’d need to select a position with similar requirements to playing outfield in the MLB. By my estimations, there are 2 positions that fit that bill, wide receiver or free safety.
Sure, sure, Harper could play tight end, or middle linebacker, or even running back, but all three require a level of physicality seldom utilized by a baseball player. Outside of actually playing baseball, what positions are more baseball-y than wide receiver and free safety?
The merits of wide receiver are obvious. In baseball, a player hits a ball into the air, the outfielder tracks it, and then catches it – just like a wide receiver. Measuring at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Harper could conceivably be a beast on the outside and even fight for contested catches like Alshon Jeffrey on 50/50 balls and in the end zone. However, baseball players are almost never hit by a would-be tackler, so would the 27-year-old former league MVP really want to get hit four, five, six times a game over an entire season?
So yeah, wide receiver is probably out too.
So what does that leave us with? Oh yeah, free safety. Like receivers, free safeties are typically tasked with tracking balls in the air, only they are the ones doing the tackling when the play is over.
As a high school linebacker, Harper has experience wrapping people up in space and could use his decade of professional outfielding experience to serve as a reserve last line of defense in Jim Schwartz’s defense.
It’s not going to happen, but if it did, I’d wager free safety is the position to play.