Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison will be the biggest elephant in the room for the front office during the offseason in regard to his age and salary in 2013. On Friday the veteran linebacker told the media that he has yet to make a decision about his future.
“I’ll get things together as far as what I’m doing for next year (after Sunday’s game),” said Harrison.
Harrison, who missed all of the training camp, preseason and the first three games of the regular season with a long lingering knee issue, has two more years remaining on his contract. He is scheduled to earn a $6.57 base salary next season and count $10.035 million against the 2013 cap. By releasing Harrison prior to June 1st the Steelers would save $5.105 million. Making Harrison a post June 1st release would save $6.57 million but would create a dead money charge in 2014 of $1.465 million.
Harrison will turn 35 in May and has 59 total tackles, 5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles to his credit heading into the season finale. After Sunday he will have played in 24 regular season games out of the last 32. He missed 4 games last season thanks to a fractured orbital bone suffered against the Houston Texans and was also suspended for another game against the San Francisco 49ers because of his hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy a week earlier.
Harrison is a success story like none other. He bounced on and off the Steelers practice squad after being signed in 2002 as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State. He even spent time with the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe and the Baltimore Ravens before finally making it back to the Steelers and sticking on the 53 man roster.
Harrison could be asked to take a pay cut to return next season, but that would have to be a significant one. His amortization hit from his previous bonuses is $3.465 and there is nothing that can be done about that. A $3 million salary reduction would be the only thing that would be good for both sides, but Harrison but might decide just to walk away from the game that he has been very critical of over the last few seasons in regards to all of the times he has been fined for illegal hits.
The reality of all of this is the fact that Sunday could be the final game that Harrison plays for the Steelers.