Although Duron Harmon has spent majority of his career playing free safety, he's also comfortable playing strong safety. This bodes well for the veteran player who signed a one-year deal with the Falcons because Atlanta has a need at both safety positions.
Harmon has played in 127 games with 45 starts over the course of his eight-year career in the NFL. He's recorded 19 interceptions and 33 passes defensed and has three Super Bowls during his time with the New England Patriots.
He's exactly what the Falcons need in their secondary that's being re-vamped under new head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot. Heading into free agency, the Falcons had holes at both strong and free safety after all three starters from the 2020 season (Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee) hit the market and signed with other teams.
The former third-round pick understands what it takes to play at a high level in the NFL and part of that is identifying what scheme fits his skillset best. For Harmon, it's Dean Pees' 3-4 scheme that allows him to show his versatility. Harmon reached out to the Falcons during free agency in hopes to sign with Atlanta because of Smith, Pees and the opportunity to compete for a starting job.
"The thing within this system, you do a little bit of everything," Harmon said. "You could be labeled as a free safety, but there's going to be times where you might have to play strong safety. I'm comfortable playing wherever they ask me to play. I'm just excited because there's so many different things you can do in this defense, you have to be able to be versatile. You can't be one or the other, you have to be able to do both. I'm looking forward to be able to show I can do both."
After spending seven seasons in New England, Harmon was traded to the Detroit Lions in 2020. He started all 16 games at safety and recorded a career-high 73 tackles, five pass deflections and two interceptions.
Harmon says the ability to play both free and strong is dependent on a few things, mainly the scheme. At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Harmon isn't a prototypical box safety. He specifically said in a scheme like Seattle's or the scheme Atlanta ran for the last five seasons where the strong safety is asked to play in the box mostly, it probably wouldn't be the right fit.
In Pees' scheme that has a lot of similarities to the one he played in with the Patriots and Lions, there's more flexibility in what the safeties are asked to do. Pees was the defensive coordinator in New England from 2006-09.
"I think I would be a little more effective in the middle of the field because I'm more of a rangy, smart, get my hands on the ball type of player," Harmon said. "In this system, it calls for you to do both."
Whether it's at free or strong safety, the Falcons will be able to count on Harmon and his experience no matter where he is on the field.