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Patriots S Duron Harmon is about to join an ugly middle class of safeties in free agency

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Harmon is a starting caliber safety, but there’s not a lot of money in that business.

New England Patriots free safety Duron Harmon is looking for a nice payday after the 2016 season, and he’ll likely get one. This is a safety-hungry league and Harmon is a starting caliber player.

Just don’t ask Harmon about his price tag.

"To tell you the truth, I realized, just talking to [Patriots safety Devin McCourty]- he’s been through this situation- he told me all the time, the more time you focus on contracts and all that, the less time you’re focusing on working your craft," Harmon told the Providence Journal. "I’m putting that in the back of my mind and focusing on getting better, being able to go out there and make some plays for the New England Patriots and help them win some football games."

Harmon was a key feature in the Patriots secondary in 2015 that played a heavy amount of three-safety packages due to injuries at the cornerback position. The Patriots also enjoyed playing Harmon as the fifth defensive back when the opposing offense feature multiple tight ends.

We will likely see Harmon land a contract anywhere from $3 to $5 million per year, which is the range for safeties ranked 20th through 30th in the league. It is important to note that the value of non-elite safeties has stagnated under the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Under the new CBA, the cap floated between $120.0 and $123.0 million from 2011-2013. From 2014 through 2016, the cap increased $10 million each year, to $133.0 million, $143.3 million, and $155.3 million. The value of the elite safeties (top 10) increased from an average of $7.90 million in 2014 to $8.65 million in 2016.

Year 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Six year trend
Cap $120,000,000 $120,600,000 $123,000,000 $133,000,000 $143,280,000 $155,270,000 +$35,270,000
Top 10 $8,167,738 $7,972,738 $7,644,689 $7,901,422 $8,109,422 $8,650,950 +$483,211.80
%Cap 6.8% 6.6% 6.2% 5.9% 5.7% 5.6% -1.2%
11-20 $5,756,143 $5,390,153 $5,212,833 $5,825,613 $5,691,863 $5,754,821 -$1,322
%Cap 4.8% 4.5% 4.2% 4.4% 4.0% 3.7% -1.1%
Top 20 $6,961,941 $6,681,445 $6,428,761 $6,863,517 $6,900,642 $7,202,886 +$240,944.90
%Cap 5.8% 5.5% 5.2% 5.2% 4.8% 4.6% -1.2%
11-30 $4,855,893 $4,519,305 $4,264,396 $4,526,865 $4,781,499 $4,843,661 -$12,232.45
%Cap 4.0% 3.7% 3.5% 3.4% 3.3% 3.1% -0.9%
21-30 $3,955,643 $3,648,458 $3,315,958 $3,228,118 $3,871,136 $3,932,500 -$23,142.90
%Cap 3.3% 3.0% 2.7% 2.4% 2.7% 2.5% -0.8%
Top 30 $5,959,841 $5,670,450 $5,391,160 $5,651,718 $5,890,807 $6,112,757 +$152,915.63
%Cap 5.0% 4.7% 4.4% 4.2% 4.1% 3.9% -1.0%

The average contract of safeties ranked 11th through 20th actually fell from $5.83 million in 2014 to $5.75 million in 2016, while those ranked 21st through 30th increased from $3.23 million in 2014 to $3.93 million in 2016.

I should also note that safeties have taken up a smaller amount of cap space across the board under the new CBA.

Even if Harmon says he’s focused on the upcoming season, he will be fighting for every possible dollar he can get on the open market. With fellow safety Patrick Chung playing safety, cornerback, and linebacker at an extremely high level for a mere $2.73 million per season, Harmon will have a a difficult time arguing for more than $3 million with the Patriots. The Patriots also added safety Jordan Richards in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft and will look to increase his role moving forward.

For now, Harmon is just trying to get back on the field after missing the offseason team activities. Harmon was "trying to clean up some things physical wise," but says that he is "feeling great now."

He’s going to have to do more than feel great in order to receive a major paycheck in free agency.