The Atlanta Falcons traded a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft for Miami Dolphins defensive end Charles Harris on Friday in an attempt to further improve their pass rush for the upcoming season.
A first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Harris was considered one of the top pass rushers in the country coming out of Missouri and a player the Falcons were reportedly interested in. The 25-year-old hasn't had much success in the NFL, but Atlanta is betting that a change of scenery will lead to increased production.
Harris has played in 41 games throughout his three-year career, recording 61 tackles, 23 quarterback hits, 10 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. The 6-foot-3, 252-pound defender has the raw tools to be an effective player with the Falcons, however. In his final two seasons at Missouri, Harris had a combined 30.5 tackles for a loss and 16 sacks, showing the type of disruption he is capable of creating.
Under head coach Brian Flores in 2019, the Dolphins began to mix a heavy dose of 3-4 packages into their defensive scheme. In these packages, Miami utilized Harris in a variety of ways - as a stand-up rush linebacker, interior defensive end and even nose tackle. While the Falcons did show some 3-4 looks last season, they have traditionally featured a four-man front and Harris will presumably move back to a more classic end role in Atlanta, but it's clear he has the versatility to do more than that.
Although Harris did not become the star player the Dolphins hoped he would, he won't have to shoulder such a heavy load with the Falcons. Coach Dan Quinn explained after this year's draft that he likes having a healthy rotation of defensive linemen to keep sending fresh players after the quarterback.
"Most of the best defenses that we've been around having that kind of rotation where guys are rolling through," Quinn said.
After adding former Rams pass rusher Dante Fowler to the roster in free agency and trading for Harris the Falcons now have two additional former first-round edge rushers to pair with Takk McKinley. Fowler, who is coming off of an 11.5-sack season, is the most accomplished of the three, but the upside of the group is notable.
In addition to the trio of Fowler, McKinley and Harris, the Falcons are welcoming the return of Steven Means, who missed all of last season due to injury. Means was an important part of Atlanta's defensive end rotation in 2018 and offers a well-round skill set, even if he isn't a high-caliber pass rusher.
The Falcons went into this offseason wanting to improve their pass rush, which ranked 29th in the league with 28 sacks last season. By adding Fowler, Atlanta has a No. 1 threat coming off the edge to replace Vic Beasley. Trading for Harris boosts Atlanta's overall defensive end depth with the possibility that he can tap into the skills that made him a top-flight pass rusher in college.