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Very quietly, the Detroit Lions are wrapping up their search for a personnel man to join new general manager Martin Mayhew in the front office. One name frequently mentioned in recent days is James "Shack" Harris, the former vice president of player personnel in Jacksonville.
Harris, former Cleveland general manager Phil Savage and former Denver general manager Ted Sundquist have all been mentioned as possible candidates. Although things could change, there have been recent indications that the Lions were focusing in on Harris.
Harris would fit the description of what Mayhew has said he was looking for: An experienced talent evaluator to serve as a second pair of trained eyes. Such an arrangement would lend credibility to a front office that hasn't engendered much lately.
Of course, at this time in the NFL offseason, that's not an easy job description to fill. The vast majority of qualified candidates are locked in with their current teams until after the draft. Typically, teams set the contracts of their personnel executives to expire in May to ensure continuity during this critical time of the season. And because the Lions aren't offering a job that would include final say on personnel issues, teams could block any interview requests for candidates under contract.
That leaves the Lions considering a pool of men who are currently unemployed. It's believed that Savage wasn't interested in joining the team in a subordinate role, but Harris is said to be ready to get back to work.
Harris wasn't perfect during his tenure in Jacksonville, where he shared final authority with coach Jack Del Rio. The Jaguars had some questionable draft choices during his tenure, from receiver Reggie Williams (2004) to receiver Matt Jones (2005), and they misfired last year when signing receiver Joey Porter to a free agent contract.
But Harris has more than a decade of experience in building playoff-caliber teams, something no one else in the Lions' front office can say. Prior to his stint in Jacksonville, Harris spent six years in Baltimore and was part of the Super Bowl championship team in 2000.
Hiring Harris as general manager would have been a suspect move. But bringing him in as a mentor of sorts for Mayhew would seem to be a good fit.