Minutes before the NFL’s deadline to use the franchise tag, the Vikings got into the game by tagging a player for just the third time in the 21st century.
In something of a surprise move, the Vikings placed the franchise tag on safety Anthony Harris, giving them a chance to keep the safety for at least another season. The Vikings hadn’t used the franchise tag since 2011, when they placed it on linebacker Chad Greenway before signing him to a long-term deal. They also used it on fullback Jim Kleinsasser in 2003.
Harris tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with six last season, setting himself up for a lucrative contract in free agency. When asked about the possibility of keeping Harris in free agency, coach Mike Zimmer said at the NFL combine, “I love Anthony. If he doesn’t come back, I think he’s earned whatever he’s gotten, but if you put up the positions that are the most important on defense, it’s probably not going to be safety.”
The fact the Vikings cleared $10 million of salary cap space with quarterback Kirk Cousins’ new deal on Monday morning, though, allowed them to put the tag on Harris just before an 11 a.m. deadline for teams to use the franchise or transition tag. At safety, the franchise tag expected to be worth $11.4 million this season. From here, the Vikings could have Harris play on the tag, try to work out a multiyear deal with him or potentially trade him to another team that would have been interested in signing him.
The Vikings also re-signed fullback C.J. Ham.