Philadelphia Eagles: Releasing Anthony Harris is savvy roster building

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Hold onto your butts, Philadelphia Eagles fans; things are getting interesting.

In the matter of about half an hour, the Eagles went from having two starting-caliber safeties to one to two once more, with Anthony Harris waived to open up a roster spot for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, the former do-it-all DB of the New Orleans Saints who saw his long-term prospects both on the field and financially seriously impacted by the addition of Tyrann Mathieu.

Now to most, the second half of that roster two-step is by far the most interesting thing Howie Roseman will do all day, as the GM clearly heard the cries from all corners of the NFL world that his assembled depth at safety wasn’t good enough and decided to do something about it. But what if I were to tell you that the first half of the maneuver, releasing Harris to free up a roster spot, is actually far more interesting? What if I were to tell you that saying goodbye to Harris, at least for now, allows the Eagles to have their cake and eat it too?

Roseman, you son of a gun, you did it again.

The Philadelphia Eagles should soon have three solid safeties under contract.

Anthony Harris is entering his eighth season in the NFL. Initially signed by the Vikings as a UDFA, Harris played six seasons in Minnesota before jumping ship to South Philly in order to reunite with his former assistant coach, Jonathan Gannon, on a series of one-year deals.

Why, you may ask, is this relevant? Well, because Harris is a vested vet no longer subject to the waiver wire and thus, is free to sign wherever he pleases a la Kenyon Drake with the Baltimore Ravens. While Harris can play the field and potentially sign elsewhere, as the prospects of being part of a safety rotation with Marcus Epps and CGJ may not be his preferred outcome for the 2022 NFL season, it’s just as likely, if not more so, that the Virginia product could re-sign with the Birds immediately following the trim down to 53 men on the active roster, taking the place of a player who lands on IR.

A tricky piece of wheelin’ and dealin’? Eh, maybe a little bit, but it’s not unprecedented; Roseman pulled the same move last season when he released long snapper Rick Lovato only to re-sign him a few days later. Like Harris, Lovato wasn’t subject to waivers, and because he had little incentive to sign elsewhere, the Eagles were able to scoop him up for nothing but a new contract and a minor cap hit.

Harris’ contract had a guaranteed value of $1 million, so assuming he returns, his new deal will likely be worth a little less than the $2.5 million he initially re-signed for, but for a total value of more than the initial value. The Eagles clearly like Harris, as he was tasked with running the pre-game huddles before the preseason games, so if anything, this opportunity could provide him with a little extra financial incentive for his loyalty.

In layman’s terms? Harris is going to earn a small windfall of cash for giving the Eagles some cap flexibility, which, objectively speaking, is good money if you can get it.

Next. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to PHI in shocking deal. dark

Who knows, maybe this will all blow up in the Philadelphia Eagles’ collective faces. Maybe Harris will sign with another team, say the Vikings, and have a big season more reminiscent of his 2019 campaign than his 2021 efforts. But after entering the season without much excitement surrounding their depth at safety, the Eagles could soon have three solid safeties on their depth chart with – hopefully – Reed Blankenship and Josiah Scott rounding out as multi-hyphenate DBs/special teamers. All things considered, that is pretty good stuff.