Former CFL defensive back Erik Harris has beat out another competitor for his starting free safety spot with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The silver and black signed 2015 first round pick, Damarious Randall in April to compete with Harris, it was a one-year contract for $1.5 million guaranteed. That investment didn’t make the decision as to who would stay with Las Vegas for the regular season — strictly football.
“It was more about what Erik Harris did than anything else. I think we sometimes overlook how valuable a player Erik Harris is and we thought Demarious Randall would come in and compete with Erik for that spot, ultimately across from John Abram,” general manager Mike Mayock said after releasing Randall in favour of Harris.
The 30-year-old Harris earned the role during the 2018 season when he made 49 tackles, defended seven passes and intercepted two balls in 16 games. His production earned Harris a two-year contract extension, signed in March 2019, through the 2020 season. Harris could have been a restricted free agent, but he agreed to a new deal that could be worth over $5.75 million.
“He gets people lined up, he’s the best communicator we have back there, and he’s one of our top special teams players. So when you look at Erik Harris, I think a lot of times he gets underrated. He doesn’t get the respect he deserves,” Mayock said.
“And I think every year he’s had a challenge with people coming in, trying to take his job, and he’s just consistent, smart, tough and he will be a very difficult guy to supplant.”
After going unselected in the 2012 NFL draft, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats provided the first opportunity to play in the pros. Harris spent three seasons in the Hammer playing in 45 games making 79 tackles another 27 on special teams and three interceptions as a standout strong-side (SAM) linebacker. Standout leadership, play and film caught the attention of NFL talent evaluators.
“The more you look at Erik Harris, the more you look at, he’s a glue guy,” Mayock said. “Not only for the entire team, but specifically in the back end.”
The six-foot-two, 220-pound Harris has gained the trust of Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden while leading the Raiders into a new era in Las Vegas.