Entering free agency, the New England Patriots had a list of 13 unrestricted free agents. Two of those were core members of the team's defensive secondary: free safety Duron Harmon and cornerback Logan Ryan. And while the latter left to join the Tennessee Titans on a 3-year, $30.0 million contract, Harmon returned to the Patriots.
Last week, during his first media conference call since agreeing to a $20 million contract that will keep him in New England the next four seasons, Harmon spoke about his free agency experience. "It was a good process," the 26-year old said about his rather short stint as an unrestricted free agent. "You got to go out there, you got to be a free agent, you got to see where people value your skills at, what you put on tape for the first four years of your career."
Even before free agency officially started, though, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Harmon was expected to re-sign with the Patriots. "[C]oming back to New England – that’s ultimately what I wanted to do," Harmon noted. "I love it here. I’ve built a lot of relationships here with people outside of football. My kids go to school here and just being a part of this organization – it means a lot to me." The Rutgers product also pointed out that staying put "really wasn't a hard decision".
Harmon's motivations to re-join the team with which he had won two Super Bowls also were based on how the team used him on the field. "I mean that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come back. They know how to use me. They know how to really get the best out of me and I want to continue to grow being a part of this defense."
Over his first four years in the NFL, Harmon steadily was given a bigger role within the Patriots' defense. Starting as a depth player, who saw the field on about a third of defensive snaps, he grew into a core member of one of the league's best safety corps - alongside Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung. "Just being able to play more, being in more situations, being out there more, being relied on more is something that I really prided myself in last year," Harmon said before continuing: "to just let me know that I was becoming a better football player that Coach [Bill] Belichick and Matty P [Matt Patricia] would put me out there a lot more."
With the Patriots' secondary undergoing changes this offseason - Ryan leaving, Stephon Gilmore joining the team, Malcolm Butler's status being in flux - Harmon is one constant. But he knows that turnover is part of the NFL: "Well, there’s turnover every year," the safety acknowledged. "[T]here’s a lot of turnover, especially in the defensive backfield but it’s something that in all reality we’re kind of used to. How good we will be will not be determined right now. Nothing really matters right now. All we can really do is just wait to get to work, and then we’ve got to build what we want to be this year."
Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the goal of this building process is clear: Becoming yet another world champion. It would be the third time in Harmon’s young career.