On this week’s currently yet-to-be-released PODcast, I said that I didn’t expect the Detroit Lions to be serious players at the NFL trade deadline. Big trades typically don’t happen in this league, and the Lions were still too unproven to act aggressively. It took me about 12 hours to be completely wrong, and I couldn’t be happier.
There is no other way to put this, but the Detroit Lions absolutely fleeced the New York Giants—and the rest of the league—by trading a fifth-round pick for Damon Harrison. A fifth-round pick for an All-Pro talent still performing at an All-Pro level is unthinkable in the NFL. There are so many reasons to love this trade. Let’s break down a handful of them.
Run defense savior
Through seven weeks, the Lions are one of the worst teams at defending the run. They’re allowing the third-most rushing yards per game (139.3) and the most yards per carry (5.3). They’re 30th in run defense DVOA.
Damon Harrison has been an absolute monster at defending the run for his entire six-year career.
In trading for Damon Harrison, the Lions have added the NFL's leader in defensive stops on the defensive interior in each of the past three seasons. pic.twitter.com/Oq3a8t0VpV— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 24, 2018
Harrison doesn’t have a Pro Bowl to his name, but players like him don’t tend to get a lot of attention from fans, mostly because he doesn’t rack up a ton of traditional stats (5.5 career sacks, 3 career forced fumbles). However, beyond the box score, “Snacks” is a game-changer. At 6-foot-3, 355 pounds, Harrison is now the biggest Lions player by over 20 pounds. He is a mountain of a man that is almost impossible to move from that nose tackle position. Putting him next to Da’Shawn Hand is going to make opposing running backs’ lives a lot tougher.
This year has been no different. Harrison leads the Giants with five tackles for loss, and he’s currently fourth in run defense among interior defenders according to PFF’s grades.
It goes without saying that getting Harrison for a fifth-round pick is highway, freeway, driveway, Meijer-parking-lot robbery. I know the Giants are in fire-sale mode, but it’s hard to imagine they couldn’t have gotten a better deal for Snacks, especially after recouping a fourth and seventh-round pick for Eli Apple earlier in the week.
The Lions just so happened to have an extra fifth-round pick after sending Laken Tomlinson to the 49ers, so this is a move the Lions could really afford.
But this a great deal for the Lions because this isn’t just a rental for Harrison. The nose tackle is signed through 2020 with a fairly reasonable contract. Here are his cap hits for the next two years:
2019: $8.6 million
2020: $10.85 million
(Note: As pointed out by Andrew Kato, these numbers represent the full cap hit for Harrison. The Lions won’t be responsible for prorated signing bonus portion of the cap hit, which accounts for $1.6 million per year. So the actual hits for the Lions will be $7 million and $9.25 million, respectively.)
By comparison, guys like Geno Atkins ($15.1 million cap hit in 2018), Ndamukong Suh ($14.5 million) and Aaron Donald ($17.1 million cap hit in 2019) are going to be making a lot more.
With Ezekiel Ansah unlikely to come back next season, Harrison can slide easily into the Detroit’s salary cap with little implications on free agency next year.
For as good as Harrison has been his entire career, they say your best ability is your availability. Defensive tackle is a rough position to play, but Harrison has somehow not missed a singled game since his rookie year as an undrafted free agent. Harrison is currently riding an 87-game starting streak. That may come to an end this week as he adjusts to life in Detroit, but that kind of durability could really come in handy come December.
I couldn’t imagine a better trade deadline move for the Detroit Lions, and if someone had proposed this exact transaction, I would’ve assumed they were playing Madden. This move gets an A+ from me.
What about you?
What grade do you give the trade for Damon Harrison?
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