The New York Giants' free-agent signing of Dwayne Harris drew snickers from interested NFL observers. Why would you pay $17.5 million over five years ($7.1 million guaranteed) for a special teams ace who had never been more than bit player on offense in four years with the Dallas Cowboys?
It's true that the Giants were seeking someone who could give their less-than-adequate return game a boost. They paid that handsome price for Harris, though, because they believed he could be much more than he had been in Dallas. Harris, 28, was looking for an opportunity to prove he could be a weapon on offense. The Giants believed he could be one, and weren't shy about spending the money to make sure his chance to prove it came in New York.
I sat with Harris back in June and discussed why he came to the Giants and what he hoped to bring to the table.
"They [the Giants] know what they're getting. They know what kind of player [I am]. They played against me two times a year for four years so they knew what kind of player they were getting and they knew what I was capable of," Harris said. "People who think they overpaid me, they know what I can do. I'm not just a special teams guy. I come in I do a lot of stuff. I block, and I block well. I'm so much more than just a special teams player."
So far, Harris and the Giants have been proven right. Harris, as expected, has given the Giants excellent work in the return game. He is second in the league in kickoff returns with an average of 31.1 yards per return, and had the game-winning 100-yard touchdown return against his former team a few weeks ago. He has averaged a solid 8.2 yards on punt returns. He has also contributed on coverage teams.
Harris' work as a receiver, though, is what has really made the Giants look correct in paying big money for him. Through 10 games Harris has career highs in receptions (25), yards receiving (304) and touchdowns (4). His only previous double-digit season in receptions was 2012, when he caught 17 passes.
Harris took over full-time receiving duties in Week 3 after Preston Parker flopped as the replacement for the injured Victor Cruz. He has played at least 35 snaps on offense in every game since, with a high of 74 against the San Francisco 49ers. The most snaps he played in a single game on offense last season was 22.
Harris has seen his special teams duties limited some, appearing less often on coverage teams and having Shane Vereen handle some of the kickoff return responsibilities.
"We thought he was a five-tool kind of guy. We thought he could fill that receiver role as the third, fourth type receiver. He's done a really good job of that. I think it hurts him a little bit on special teams because he's really playing as a full-time receiver and he still has special teams duties that we wanted him to initially have. He's done a nice job there."
Wide receivers coach Sean Ryan said of Harris "The more he plays, the more comfortable he gets" as a wide receiver.
Also, of course, the more he plays the more he makes the Giants look like they were right to bank on him.