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Duron Harmon on return: 'They know how to get the best out of me'

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Saints advancing talks to acquire Butler (0:46)

Dan Graziano breaks down the next steps in New Orleans' negotiations with New England for CB Malcolm Butler. (0:46)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots safety Duron Harmon has carved out a niche as the 12th man on defense, a result of coordinator Matt Patricia calling on the “big nickel” package on a regular basis. That has been reflected in his playing-time stats, which have hovered around 50 percent in each of the past two seasons. It helps explain why his first choice in free agency this year was to return to New England.

“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back; they know how to use me and get the best out of me,” Harmon told reporters Friday on a conference call. “I’m going to continue to grow, being a part of this defense.”

Harmon hopes part of that growth specifically comes against the run. That is one area he’s pinpointed for improvement this year: to become a more aggressive tackler.

“I feel that’s one area I feel I can grow. I think that is going to come with putting on a little more weight and being able to bang down there,” he said.

Harmon is listed on the team’s roster at 205 pounds, so he’s only looking to add a few pounds to be in the 207-208 range.

“I’ll try it out at OTAs and minicamp and see how I feel and like moving around a little heavier,” he said.

As for the free-agent process, Harmon called it a good one because he had a chance to see how other teams valued him on the open market. He ended up returning on a four-year contract with a maximum value of $20 million.

“In the end, coming back to New England is ultimately what I wanted to do. I love it here. I have built a lot of relationships here with people outside of football. My kids go to school here,” he said. “Being part of this organization means a lot to me. I love playing for Coach Belichick. I love being part of Mr. Kraft’s team. In the end, coming back here wasn’t a hard decision.”

If cornerback Malcolm Butler also returns, that would be welcome news to Harmon.

“I love Malcolm. I love being his teammate and what he brings to the football field and the locker room. I would love being his teammate,” Harmon said. “It’s a business more than anything. I know people have to do what’s best for them. I’m rooting for him that he gets to do whatever he feels is best for him.”