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New England Patriots 2017 roster breakdown: #30 FS Duron Harmon

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After staying in New England in free agency, Harmon will return as the team’s third safety.

With opening day still three months away, we have entered the more quiet parts of the NFL offseason. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, the New England Patriots currently hold their mandatory minicamp.

It is the next step for players to secure their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.

Today, we’ll continue the series with a core member of the Patriots’ safety rotation.

Name: Duron Harmon

Position: Free safety

Jersey number: 30

Opening day age: 26

Experience: 4

Size: 6’1, 205 lbs.

2016 review: Former third round draft pick Duron Harmon entered the fourth and final year of his rookie contract as the Patriots’ number three safety – a role he held throughout the year. As such, the Rutgers product was once again a valuable and durable member of New England’s secondary providing solid coverage, playmaking ability and leadership.

Overall, Harmon appeared in all 19 of the team’s 2016 games, playing 48.6% of defensive snaps during the regular season (507 of 1,044) and 58.8% during the playoffs (110 of 187) – while also being a part-time special teamer. He finished the year with a combined 33 tackles, two interceptions while allowing seven of nine pass attempts thrown towards his coverage areas to be completed for 69 yards and one touchdown.

The numbers tell only a part of the story, though, as Harmon’s impact went beyond the stat sheet. As New England’s number three safety, he essentially served as the team’s fifth defensive back and provided both depth and scheme flexibility. He also is the only safety on the team coming close to Devin McCourty’s elite skill set.

And while Harmon is not on McCourty’s level in terms of athleticism or versatility, he has proven time and again to be a reliable player when given a distinct role and thus put in a position to succeed. In that regard, the 2016 season was no different for him.

2017 preview: On the first day of free agency, the Patriots re-signed Harmon to a four-year, $20.0 million contract. Naturally, this deal makes him a lock to return as a member of the team's safety corps. And given how relatively stable the rest of the secondary remains, Harmon’s role will once again be similar to the one he held during the 2016 season.

Playing around 50% of the snaps as a deep safety – mostly in single-high or two-deep coverages –, the 26-year old has proven himself a capable and productive player that has shown a knack for making the big play. And while Harmon lacks the range of fellow safety Devin McCourty, the coaching staff trusts him as the occasional last line of defense.

Despite that, he will likely still continue to be one of the more underrated players on the Patriots roster. But while Harmon is a long way from getting broad recognition outside of New England, he is a core member of the team’s defense. After all, his presence allows the Patriots to a) move McCourty around the formation and to b) diversify the coverages.

If the past is any indicator, 2017 will be more of the same: Harmon playing a key role in the Patriots pass defense – one that will rarely get mentioned but is as important as they come.