BUFFALO, N.Y. — On the same day the Bills saw their leading rusher the past four seasons depart for the Houston Texans, Buffalo reached agreement with former New England Patriots running back Damien Harris on a one-year deal, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Just hours earlier, the Texans and Devin Singletary agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $3.75 million, Schefter reported. Singletary has led Buffalo in rushing since being selected in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft (pick No. 74). His replacement, Harris, was drafted by the Patriots 14 picks later, at No. 87.
Harris, who turned 26 in February, was supplanted by Rhamondre Stevenson as the Patriots’ No. 1 running back in 2022. He was also limited by a thigh injury that sidelined him for six games.
As a result, he played just 22% of the offensive snaps, compared to 66% for Stevenson. That was a big change from 2021, when Harris played 36% of the offensive snaps and Stevenson totaled 25%.
The 5-foot-11, 213-pound Harris has played in 38 regular-season games (34 starts), totaling 449 rushes for 2,094 yards — averaging 4.7 yards per carry — and 20 touchdowns. He added 40 receptions for 281 yards.
Harris expressed his desire to return to the Patriots after the team’s season-ending loss to Buffalo.
“If they want to have me, I’d love to be back,” Harris said. “But at the end of the day, I know this is a business. The organization is going to do what they feel is best for them and I have to do what I feel is best for me.”
Instead, Harris will join a Buffalo running backs room that includes 2022 second-round pick James Cook and Nyheim Hines, acquired at last season’s trade deadline, in addition to veteran Duke Johnson.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane acknowledged last week that the team would like to add size at the position — Hines and Cook both weigh less than 200 pounds — and someone who has different abilities than what the other two offer.
“We’ll continue to add there and look for different skill sets,” Beane said Thursday. “Totally aware we’ve got a couple of guys that are around 200 [pounds]. Yeah, we’ll probably add somebody that’s a little heavier than that at some point between now and training camp.”
Beane has had an up-close look over the years at what Harris can do, as the former Patriot rushed for over 100 yards in three of his five career games against Buffalo, with five touchdowns (including three in one game against the Bills in December 2021).
Harris has also fumbled only three times in his career compared to 10 for Singletary.
With Harris, the Bills get a back who can contribute in short-yardage situations.
The Bills have used three Day 2 draft picks on running backs in the past four years. Only Cook remains on the roster.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss contributed to this report.