Yesterday, I wrote an article on who I believe the San Francisco 49ers should target, as I compiled a list of my top five free-agent candidates. And while New York Jets unrestricted free-agent NT Damon Harrison was not on the list, do not count him out, as 49ers GM Trent Baalke could make a run at him, if he lets NT Ian Williams walk in free-agency.
Harrison is scheduled to become an unrestricted free-agent, as the Jets will unlikely use a franchise tag on a two-down player. And with Pro Bowl DE Muhammad Wilkerson still in negotiations on a long-term contract, that may leave Harrison as the odd man out in New York.
So what does Harrison exactly bring to the table? Will the team pony up top dollar for a two-down nose tackle? Those are all valid questions as Harrison will likely receive a contract worthy of upwards of $5 million per year.
In 2015, Harrison had a breakout campaign in which he amassed 72 tackles, 0.5 sacks, and 8 tackles for loss while being named by Pro Football Focus as the 2015 Best Run Defender. A true two-gap clog in the middle of a 3-4 defense, Harrison will have no drop off in production from Williams’ departure. He can stack-and-shed with the best of them while peaking into the backfield.
Damon Harrison was named the @PFF best run defender in 2015. Unlikely Jets will franchise a two-down player leaving him to test Free-Agency
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) February 21, 2016
In a 3-4 defense it’s imperative the team has a true 3-4 nose guard who can not only hold the point of attack but collapse the pocket when needed. And while Harrison may not be the best pass-rusher as he only has 1.5 sacks to his credit, his run stuffing ability can not be denied.
With the 49ers looking to shore up their roster on both sides of the ball, they will need to first address the nose tackle position, as it’s the most important position in a 3-4 defense. And while I believe Williams should be awarded, I’m not sure that will happen in San Francisco as the two sides have yet to agree to a long-term extension.