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NFL free agency 2023: Damien Harris leaves Patriots to sign reported 1-year contract with Bills

New England has lost its second free agent.

Detroit Lions v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

The New England Patriots have lost their second free agent of this year’s offseason. Running back Damien Harris, who had spent his entire four-year career with the team, is signing a contract with the Buffalo Bills.

The deal will span one year, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Further details are not known at this time.

Harris, 26, arrived in New England as a third-round selection in the 2019 draft out of Alabama. While seeing only marginal playing time during his rookie season, he broke out in 2020 and established himself as the team’s top early-down back and one of the better young runners in football.

Before injuries slowed him down in 2022, he was clearly the most productive back in New England and undisputed RB1.

All in all, Harris has seen action in 39 regular season and playoff games. He carried the football a combined 458 times for 2,124 yards as well as 20 touchdowns, while also catching 41 passes for 288 yards. A reliable player when on the field, he has missed his fair share of time due to injury: between 2020 and 2022, he had to sit out 13 games due to a multitude of ailments.

In 2022, Harris was able to play in 11 of the Patriots’ 17 games. Taking the field for 238 offensive snaps (of 1,052; 22.6%), he finished the year with 123 touches and 559 yards from scrimmage. The fourth-year man ranked second and third, respectively, in the two categories.

However, three separate ailments — hamstring and thigh injuries as well as an illness — forced him to miss time and led to sophomore Rhamondre Stevenson emerging as the top option in the Patriots’ running back rotation. Harris therefore entered unrestricted free agency as no safe bet to return, and it seemed the organization agreed: New England signing James Robinson to a two-year deal last week was a sign of things to come.