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NFL free agency 2023: Ex-Patriot Damien Harris explains why he signed with the Bills

After four years with the New England Patriots, Damien Harris will be wearing a different uniform in 2023. The running back joined the Buffalo Bills in free agency, signing a one-year contract to move from one AFC East team to another.

Harris was introduced to local media in Buffalo earlier this week, and he gave insight into his decision to join his former club’s division rivals.

“There are a lot of reasons why I chose here,” he said. “Obviously, this is a great organization from top to bottom — ownership to management to the coaching and the players, the entire staff. I feel like the transition into a great organization is just obviously so appealing. The trajectory of this organization, the momentum the team is building, it’s all appealing. It’s all something that I wanted to be a part of, and something that I feel like I can help with.”

Harris originally joined the Patriots as a third-round selection in the 2019 draft. He saw limited action as a rookie but broke out the following year: in 2020 and 2021, he served as the team’s undisputed lead back — establishing himself as a core member of the offense and one of the best young runners in football.

The 2022 season, however, was a challenging one. Not only did he miss time with three different ailments, he also saw sophomore Rhamondre Stevenson emerge as New England’s RB1.

Given this development, and the fact that the team had drafted two running backs just a few months earlier, the writing was on the wall that his fourth season would be his final one as a Patriot. When the team then went out to sign free agent James Robinson to a two-year contract, Harris’ departure was all but official.

It came shortly thereafter, via a one-year deal with the Bills.

“I was definitely excited for free agency, just the idea of it; becoming a free agent and then kind of having your pick of teams, having a say where you go,” Harris said. “It kind of felt like college recruitment all over again. It was cool, it was a lot of fun. Nothing really surprised me.”

As for the process itself, Harris described it as a relaxing one.

“It’s been relaxing, to be honest,” he said. “I’ve been down in Miami, training, enjoying some warm weather. I’ve been down there with my girlfriend and my dog, and we knew that God had a plan for me and he had a plan for us and for what was going to happen. I knew there was some interest between me and Buffalo, and I knew it was a possibility — amongst other teams.”

The proverbial elephant in the room, however, remains his relationship with the Patriots. The team was apparently not willing to further invest in Harris despite the success he has had in 2020 and 2021 in particular.

Now, it will get to meet him twice a year — something he is excited about.

“It’ll definitely be exciting to see a bunch of familiar faces and people that I got a lot of love for,” he said. “And a lot of great relationships that I formed over the years, the last four years. It’ll definitely be great to see those familiar faces twice a year.”

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