In a surprising move Monday, the Vikings have placed the franchise tag on safety Anthony Harris, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, who notes that Minnesota can now either keep him or trade him.
The news comes less than two weeks after a report out of ESPN Insider said the Vikings were "bracing for life without" Harris, in addition to Vikings.com's Eric Smith noting that the Vikings have "rarely used the franchise tag in recent years, so that might be the least viable option" for keeping Harris.
"I love Anthony. If he doesn't come back, I think he's earned everything he's got, but if you put up the positions most important on defense it's probably not going to be safety," said coach Mike Zimmer at the NFL Combine, only adding to speculation that Harris wouldn't be back in 2020.
The deadline to use the franchise tag hit at 10:59:59 a.m. Central Time, so the decision was reported just before the deadline.
Pro Football Focus rated Harris the 12th-best player in the NFL last season. He tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions in 2019, not to mention another one against the Saints in the playoffs.
This is the third big move reportedly done by the Vikings on Monday, which is the first day of the NFL's legal tampering period before free agency officially begins Wednesday afternoon. Kirk Cousins agreed to a two-year extension and fullback C.J. Ham inked a three-year deal.
It's also been reported that the NFL Draft will go on as planned, April 23-25, but because of the coronavirus pandemic all of the public events scheduled to be held in Las Vegas have been canceled.