FOXBORO, Mass. — Perhaps we all underestimated Maurice Harris when the New England Patriots signed the veteran receiver on the first day of free agency.
And it was easy to do so. Harris was non-tendered by the Washington Redskins as an exclusive rights free agent. The Patriots signed Harris to a modest one-year contract worth $1 million with just $90,000 guaranteed in March.
And now Harris running with the starters in minicamp and making the most of his opportunities. Harris leads the Patriots in team-drill receptions with 11 through two days of minicamp. He’s second on the team with six receptions in 11-on-11 drills. He also leads the Patriots with seven catches in team drills from Tom Brady through two practices.
And it’s not as if Harris came out of nowhere. He had 28 catches for 304 yards with the Washington Redskins last season. He has 40 catches for 432 yards with a touchdown in three seasons since going undrafted out of California in 2016.
Harris is splitting his time as an outside receiver and in the slot. And though he doesn’t fit the mold of a typical Patriots slot receiver, he’s comfortable in the role despite primarily playing outside for three seasons with the Redskins.
“I’ve done it in the past.” Harris said. “I’ve done it some in college also, so I feel comfortable. A lot of people don’t think taller receivers are supposed to be in the slot, but I feel comfortable all over the field wherever I can be to help the team. Wherever they want to put me, I want to go and do it.”
Harris seems encouraged about the reps he’s getting with Brady in the first-team offense.
“It’s good. I think it’s good to get the experience, the repetitions and getting out there,” Harris said. “I think the best thing is being out there and being able to go through it in real game situations, simulations just to get a feel for it. Obviously, I still have a lot of learning to do and improving, but it feels good to be out there getting reps.”
Heading into minicamp, we expected Harris to be buried on the depth chart behind rookie N’Keal Harry and fellow veteran Dontrelle Inman. That hasn’t been the case so far in minicamp, where Harris has unexpectedly shared a top-team role with Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett.
A lot can change before the season starts in September, but Harris is off to a positive start on his new squad and has an inside track to a roster spot three months before the season begins. He’s also been taking reps as a punt returner, which can only help his chances of making the team.