The Cleveland Browns have decisions to make on several pending free agents. After a lackluster 2021 campaign, where do the Browns stand on Ronnie Harrison?
Ronnie Harrison spent the past two seasons with the Cleveland Browns and is now headed for free agency. Here’s a look at his career and potential fit going forward.
How Ronnie Harrison’s NFL journey started
Ronnie Harrison was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Alabama. While at Alabama Harrison won two National Championships during his three years in Tuscaloosa.
After arriving in Jacksonville, Harrison was thrust directly into a starting role. He started eight of the 14 games he appeared in as a rookie and recorded 32 total tackles with one interception and one sack. In his second year in Jacksonville, Harrison started 14 games and registered 71 tackles with two interceptions and two sacks.
Harrison was a player on the rise, but Jacksonville was looking to stack assets to prepare for a rebuild. He was among several Jaguars that were dealt just prior to the 2020 regular season. The Browns were able to obtain Harrison for a future fifth-round pick in 2021.
Harrison’s time in Cleveland
Although it took Harrison several weeks to get his legs under him and get acclimated to the defensive scheme, once on the field, it was obvious that he was the Browns most talented safety. Harrison had a strong, albeit brief, 2020 campaign for the Browns. He started in seven of the 11 games that he was active in Cleveland and looked to be a bright spot on a burgeoning young defense.
In 2021, the Browns safety room underwent an overhaul. John Johnson III was brought in to give the room a veteran presence on and off the field, and Grant Delpit returned from a ruptured Achilles that erased his rookie season. With Johnson, Delpit, and Harrison on the field together, defensive coordinator Joe Woods had the personnel to employ his vision of the defense.
However, the trio did not provide the schematic chemistry that the team and fans had hoped for. Each of the three excels in the strong safety role. Harrison in particular is perfectly suited for the role of a dime linebacker but was exposed multiple times when tasked with the responsibility of over-the-top coverage.
Harrison’s 2021 campaign was riddled with inconsistent play, boneheaded penalties, and blown coverages. Not exactly the type of tape one wants to put out during a contract year.
The case for resigning Harrison
If 2020 was Harrison’s contract year, then this would probably be a much different conversation, but after his 2021 campaign, it is going to be an uphill battle for Harrison to resign in Cleveland. As stated, Harrison was excellent when playing in the overhang/box safety role, but two players already under contract have a similar skill set. Delpit was the team’s best option for patrolling the deep third of the field, but that role also underutilizes his dynamic skill set.
Unfortunately for Harrison, the Browns safety room is well-stocked at strong safety, and one of those players is still on a rookie contract. Harrison’s knack for taking the cheese and routinely getting fooled in basic zone coverage takes him out of the role to play free safety in Woods’ scheme. Unless Harrison is willing to sign a one-year prove-it deal, it is more than likely that Harrison has played his last game in a Browns’ uniform.
Fortunately for Harrison, his particular set of skills will be of use to multiple teams, and he will not be on the market long before an NFL team inks him.