If there’s one thing we know about the New England Patriots, it’s that they like to get ahead by keeping valuable players around rather than wait for them to hit free agency. The contract extension for Adrian Phillips last week is the epitome of that.
When it comes to the Patriots’ rushing attack, a lot of the success is predicated on the offensive line, but we’ve seen plenty of backs come through New England and make a name for themselves. Someone’s gotta hit the holes, break tackles, and find the end zone, right?
That’s got us thinking about Damien Harris, who’s had a roller coaster start to this NFL career. He missed just about all of 2019 with injuries, emerged as the clear No. 1 back in 2020 before injuries derailed his campaign yet again, and is now on track to play 15 of the team’s 17 games in 2021 while nearing his first 1,000-yard season (he needs 108 yards against the Dolphins this week).
It’s already time to start thinking about his future with the team, too, because he’ll be a free agent after the 2022 season. The former third-round pick has already been around for three years.
Should the Patriots consider giving Damien Harris a contract extension?
One could argue Harris’ 2021 accomplishments have been overlooked. His Week 1 game-deciding fumble was covered in excess. Rhamondre Stevenson cutting into his workload has created a competition of sorts among the media and fans. He’s been banged up a few times this year, which has kept the “injury-prone” label alive and well. But you can’t deny the numbers.
Patriots RB Damien Harris 2021 rushing stats
- 191 rushes
- 892 yards (8th in NFL)
- 4.7 yards per carry
- 14 touchdowns (2nd in NFL)
Remember, this is with Stevenson getting 129 touches and Harris missing two games and being deemphasized in at least four others due to blowouts in either direction.
Harris is an obvious No. 1-caliber running back and has embraced his role with the Patriots. You didn’t hear a peep out of him when he lost playing time after a few fumbles. He’s come ready to play each and every week regardless of his snap count and it’s shown. Two separate times this year he’s had to wait a month or more in between 100-yard games.
It certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Patriots to explore extending Harris this offseason. If they plan on keeping a stout rushing attack behind Mac Jones, there’s no better cost-effective option than a duo of Harris and Stevenson, considering Harris won’t be breaking the bank by any means due to his small body of work. Having appeared in only 26 games, he’s got plenty of prime mileage left and Bill Belichick can easily give him a comfortable raise without it creating a salary cap issue.
Maybe we’re looking at a four-year extension in the $14 million range? That pays him $3.5 million per season as a guy splitting carries behind a beastly offensive line. It’s hard to call that a bad investment given the AAV and what Harris has brought to the table in his limited reps.