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90 Buffalo Bills players in 90 days: RB Damien Harris

The newcomer arrives after starting his career with a hated rival

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills are not a run-first football team. Why would they be, given that their quarterback is among the league’s best? One thing that they could use, speaking of that outstanding quarterback, is a running back who takes some goal-line responsibility off of their $258 million man.

Enter the team’s newest addition at running back, a player who scored 15 rushing touchdowns just two seasons ago. In that 2021 season, 11 of his 15 scores came from inside the 10-yard line (oddly enough, half of his scores that came from longer distances were scored against the Bills). I’m not one of those people who thinks that quarterback Josh Allen should stop running the football, but I definitely fall in the camp of people who think that the team could use another option inside the red zone.

In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss that very option.

Name: Damien Harris

Number: 22

Position: RB

Height/Weight: 5’11”, 213 pounds

Age: 26 (27 on 2/11/2024

Experience/Draft: 5; selected by the New England Patriots in the third round (No. 87 overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft

College: Alabama

Acquired: Signed with Buffalo on 3/21/2023

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Harris signed a one-year deal with Buffalo this offseason, a pact that totals $1.77 million overall. Of that total, $1 million is guaranteed, and that number represents the dead-cap charge that Buffalo would accrue if they chose to release Harris prior to the start of the year. His contract value is the cap hit that he carries if he makes the squad. As a vested veteran, the entirety of his base salary becomes guaranteed if he’s on the roster for Week 1. That number is $1.12 million.

2022 Recap: Harris spent his fourth and final season with the Patriots in a new role, as he became the No. 2 back to Rhamondre Stevenson rather than serving as the lead. As a result, Harris had fewer touches, yards, and touchdowns than he did in any season since his rookie year. Harris carried 106 times for 462 yards and three touchdowns last season, adding 17 receptions for 97 yards in the passing game. Harris only played against the Bills once last year, as he was injured for the first meeting between Buffalo and New England. In the regular-season finale, Harris started the game — one of nine contests he started last year — and carried 13 times for 48 yards.

Positional outlook: Harris is one of five running backs on the roster, joining James Cook, Latavius Murray, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Mims. Reggie Gilliam is the lone fullback, making for six backfield types on the current roster.

2023 Offseason: Harris is healthy and he participated in offseason activities.

2023 Season outlook: Harris is definitely going to be a big part of Buffalo’s offense this season, whether as the lead back or a 1B to Cook’s 1A. He doesn’t provide much value in the passing game, but that’s where both Cook and Hines excel, so he doesn’t really have to provide anything more than solid pass protection in that regard.

While last season was definitely a down year, Harris is a very tough, talented runner who finishes his carries with violence. He’s run for 20 touchdowns in his career, and he always had a ton of success against the Bills; in fact, he has more rushing yards (364), rushing touchdowns (5), yards per carry (6.91), and rushing yards per game (91) against Buffalo than against any other opponent. Granted, playing them twice a year makes the gross numbers higher, but the averages show a player who gave the Bills fits over the last few seasons.

Harris is a quality addition to the offensive backfield, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up leading the team in rushing attempts and/or rushing yards at season’s end. At worst, he’ll be a solid touchdown vulture (for my fellow fantasy football types), but at best, he could be an 800-yard back in this offense.