The Houston Texans still need to add some pieces to their defensive front seven in order to get back to the run-stuffing shut down unit of old.
A unit featuring Sheldon Rankins, Maliek Collins, Jonathan Greenard and Will Anderson Jr. as the projected front four might benefit greatly from a player defensive coordinator Matt Burke can move around the board at will.
Enter Shelby Harris.
While the 7-year vet’s best days might just exist in the rear-view mirror, he likely still has gas in the tank. A solid run-stuffer who can line up at defensive tackle or end depending on the situation, he would also bring a solid veteran presence to help mentor the younger players on the Texans D.
Harris made Bleacher Reports’ recent list of Most Underrated NFL Free Agents Still Available Ahead of 2023 Training Camps.
Shelby Harris is one of the more versatile defensive linemen still available ahead of training camp. The sizable 6’2”, 290-pounder is listed as a defensive end, but he is adept at both shutting down the run and getting after quarterbacks, assets that should allow him to thrive regardless of where he signs.
The 2014 seventh-round pick may not rack up gaudy sack or tackle numbers, but he’s been a valuable contributor who helps his teammates thrive. According to SI.com’s Pete Smith, Harris has spent 65.2 percent of his defensive snaps in the B gap. It’s a spot where he’s able to use his powerful frame to clog rushing lanes and create havoc in the opposing backfield.
The 31-year-old is firmly in the twilight of his career, but he still flashed plenty of skill during his lone season with the Seattle Seahawks last year. In 15 games, Harris recorded 44 tackles, including five for a loss, to go with six quarterback hits, four pass defenses and a pair of sacks.
While his sack total came down after he matched a career high with six in 2021—the final year of a half-decade stint with the Denver Broncos—he earned a noticeable year-over-year improvement on his PFF grade, going from a pedestrian 61.3 to an above-average 73.2.
Harris would be a nice signing for any team that wants to improve its run-stuffing capabilities by adding a hard-working, high-IQ defender who is a strong finisher and can put some pressure on the passer.
The “hard working, high-IQ” part should speak to Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans. And Harris played for San Francisco 49ers’ division rival Seattle Seahawks last season. So, odds are high that Ryans, Burke and there other former-49ers-turned-Texans are familiar with the B-gap eating defender.
The aforementioned SI.com piece by Pete Smith offers some further insight as well.
Harris is a power player that can push an opposing offensive lineman into the backfield... Harris’s pressure rate is relatively pedestrian, but he can facilitate opportunities for teammates by simply muddying the pocket or taking away a running lane. Plus, no one is going to be upset if Harris gets half a dozen sacks as a vulture, cleaning up plays created by someone else. He’s done that in three different seasons.
Bringing in a player like Harris wouldn’t be the worst idea, especially considering Nick Caserio is likely not done transforming the Texans roster.
Multiple fan bases and co-joined media types are clamoring for Harris to join their team. Can/will Ole St. Nick swoop in and sign him for the H-Town faithful? Odds are we’ll know where the defender goes in the coming weeks.