Giants pay a big price for run-stuffer Damon Harrison

The Giants are now very strong up the middle, but could potentially be too one-dimensional.

| 1 year ago
(Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

(Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

Giants pay a big price for run-stuffer Damon Harrison

(Editor’s note: Grades and analysis for this article may be updated as further details of the deal are reported.)

The deal: First reported by Kimberly Jones, nose tackle Damon Harrison will sign a 5-year, $45 million deal with the Giants which will include $24 million in guaranteed money according to Jason LaCanfora.

Grade: C

What it means for the Giants: More than just a plug to occupy blockers, Harrison is the league’s most destructive run defender up front. He shuts down the A-gaps as an option for teams to run through. With a healthy Johnathan Hankins, who played very well in 2014, the Giants will boast one of the most fearsome and physical defensive tackle pairings in the entire NFL.

The question is, though, whether they have two players who are too similar. Have the Giants gotten bigger, tougher and stronger as the league around them gets quicker?

Harrison had the best season of his four-year career as a pass-rusher in 2015, but still only registered 14 pressures. This contract is extremely steep for a player who is unlikely to see the field on third down, let alone be a force. This also asks a lot of Hankins, who showed so well in 2014 as a versatile 1-technique and 3-technique defensive tackle; can he specialize as a 3-tech?

The Giants have definitely improved themselves, but it’s debatable as to whether it was at a reasonable cost.

What it means for the Jets: This isn’t the first time that the Jets have moved on from their productive starting nose tackle in recent seasons, but Harrison certainly had more quality football in front of him than Sione Pouha did after the 2012 season. Seventh-round pick Deon Simon currently steps up to the top of the depth chart at nose tackle, and the Jets certainly have plenty of talent on the defensive line around the nose tackle spot. Harrison will be tough to replace, but the Jets will find a way to pay a fair price for the position.

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • shaunhan murray

    I didn’t realize he got this big of a contract, its kinda weird becuz they have Hankins but maybe with JPP returning to his pre injury run stopping ways they should be very good against the run and maybe u get long 3rd downs and force qbs to throw dangerous passes to aggressive corners

    • fuster

      the Giants have built a defensive line that should be quite formidable.
      now they can concentrate on fixing their play at linebacker and safety.

      • shaunhan murray

        Giants fix their linebackers? Is this opposite day? They just spent soooo much money

        • fuster

          by spending that money, they’re now freed from being forced to use the 10th pick in the draft on a DE.

          now they can use their early picks on a DB and an LB…or even an OT.

          • shaunhan murray

            Ur neved “forced” to make a pick especially when u can just resign robert ayers and still be a formidable line and trapping urself with contracts so u can spend a draft pick at a different is strange especially when ur a team like the giants

          • fuster


            the Giants signed two young defensive linemen, quite good ones who will be in their 20s until the end of the contracts

          • shaunhan murray

            Damon Harrison is 27 and while Vernon is young ur paying for half a seasons of production. Also the age isnt as much of a factor as the likelihood of not living up to these contacts, seems to get way better in one off season to me.To go with an incredible overpay at corner who does have some upside but u dont pay a player 2nd most of a corner for his upside.All in all the chance of this going very badly especially with all the guaranteed money is scary, but I dont know the exact structure of these contracts and wen they can get u of them soooo…

          • fuster

            what reason do you have for thinking that Harrison or Vernon won’t continue to play very well for the next three seasons?
            the final seasons of the five year NFL contracts are far less of a concern.

          • shaunhan murray

            A 2 down player isnt worth 10 mill a year, and Vernon has averaged 8 sacks a year and now is the highest paid de in the league

          • shaunhan murray

            Wow that paragraph seems much worse afterword, in terms of sense making

  • crosseyedlemon

    Any upgrades on defense will be welcomed by Giant fans. I think the NFC East is wide open which to a certain extent justifies paying top dollar by any team in the division to make a run at the top spot.

  • mormonrock124

    If the argument is they overpaid than its irrelevant since it’s free agency and over paying is the norm. The Giants needed to get tougher in the trenches and they did. If these guys don’t play up to a high level than in 3 yrs they’ll be gone or restructured so it’s pretty stupid to worry about salaries when gaining in their prime talent is the goal.

  • ryan

    Hankins will still get some run as a 1-technique on passing downs in Spags. I’d like to see the Giants go for some smaller, speedier LBs now that they have the 2 big guys up front

  • Deej

    As usual, PFF badly overrates limited pass rushers and knocks elite run stoppers. Harrison was worth every penny since combined with Hankins, they will be almost impossible to run on. That allows them to look for smaller and quicker LBs, Harrison is elite at what he does, and that is worth more than a DL with can occasionally get some pressure, but is average in other aspects. This signing was a B+ or A.