Future Of Steelers LB James Harrison Will Be Known Within 10 Weeks

With the offseason now in full swing for the Pittsburgh Steelers the front office will now be tasked with the tough chore of getting the team salary cap compliant by the Mar. 12 deadline. That means over the course of the next two months that several contract restructures will need to be done, restricted free agents tendered and quite possibly a few terminations of contracts be done.

Veteran linebacker James Harrison tops the list of players that could possibly wind up being a salary cap causality as he is set to count $10.035 million against the salary cap in 2013. Harrison, who will turn 35 in May, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last week that he\’s prepared to come back next season, even if it means restructuring his contract for the second time in three years.

While Harrison offers up restructuring as an option, that simply is not feasible to do unless more years are added on to his current contract that expires after the 2014 season. A typical restructure entails turning base salary into signing bonus and stretching that liability out over the remaining years left on the contract. Being as we are only talking about 2013 and 2014 here, that is not an option.

With that option now ruled it, it leaves us with only the option of cutting his base salary. A flat pat cut like nose tackle Casey Hampton took last offseason.

Harrison is scheduled to earn a $6.57 million base salary in 2013. The remaining $3.465 million that figures into his $10.035 cap hit in 2013 is amortized monies from his original signing bonus and previous restructures. Nothing can be done with that $3.465 million as it remains on the books. Nothing! That money is gone and now must be accounted for. Should Harrison be released prior to Jun. 1, that $3.465 million, along with the $1.465 million amortized amount on the books for 2014, come due immediately in 2013 as dead monies. That would mean that the total dead money charge in 2013 on Harrison would be $4.93 million, which clears $5.105 in 2013 cap space.

So now that we have established that the least amount that Harrison can count against the 2013 cap if released is $4.93 million, we can work backwards from there. How much of his $6.57 million base salary would he be willing to give back to the Steelers in order to stay? Remember, he clears $5.105 million if released. Would he be willing to take a $3 million cut of his base salary? $4 million? That\’s about what it would take for him to play in Pittsburgh next season, in my honest opinion.

Keep in mind that even if Harrison were to take that cut in pay, that is money that comes out of the Steelers pockets and that salary would be guaranteed if he is on the roster come the first week of the season. Can you see the predicament that both Harrison and the Steelers are faced with here? Sure, Harrison might want to play next season, but would he be willing to put his back and knees through another grueling season for $3.57 million or less?

Another thing to keep in mind when it come to Harrison is the fact that linebacker Jason Worilds will be entering his final year under contract in 2013. Isn\’t it about time to get him on the field as a starter? Should the Steelers bring back Harrison, even at a reduced rate, he would be expected to start and that would signify that the organization deems Worilds a complete bust.

The Steelers undoubtedly will be drafting an outside linebacker early on in the April draft and don\’t forget about linebacker Chris Carter, who will be entering his third year under contract in 2013. Now throw Adrian Robinson into the mix and you can see the depth chart dilemma that the Steelers will also be facing next season at the outside linebacker position. The combined cap hits of Worilds, Carter and Robinson in 2013 is a mere $2.063 million.

As much as it pains me to keep writing it, I just can\’t see how it is possible for Harrison to come back in 2013 unless a few other veterans such as Ike Taylor and Brett Keisel are released and/or take considerable pay cuts. I have already trimmed $20 million off the cap with several restructures that will have to take place and that still leaves the chore of trying to get cornerback Keenan Lewis and guard Ramon Foster, both of whom will be unrestricted free agents, signed to new deals.

“Change is part of the game, and no one can play this game forever,” Harrison told the paper.

The Steelers will make quite a few changes over the course of the next several weeks and Harrison remains very likely to be one of those changes. At least we won\’t have to wait all summer before finding out.

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  • I’m really hoping for some magic here so James is back on the field for us next season. He really played well at the end of the year. He def has 2 years left in him if he can avoid injuries.

  • Jollyrob68

    Time for the next generation of stars to take center stage.

  • Pete

    The Steelers have to find a way to bring back Harrison. I’m hoping he will take a pay cut. One of the things often forgotten about Harrison is his impact in the run game. Foote said teams barely even bother running to Harrison’s side because he’s such a beast. Letting him go will affect the defense as a whole.

    In 1998, Carlos Emmons replaced Greg Lloyd at ROLB opposite Jason Gildon. Then along comes Joey Porter in 2000. Remember who replaced Porter years later? Harrison. Is Worilds good enough to make opponents worry? Worilds is not a bust. He’s just not the impact player that Harrison is. Harrison will be turning 35 and Worilds is not even close to being as good as Harrison. I hope and pray Harrison takes a pay cut and returns because the Steelers don’t have anyone to replace him.

  • Russ1740

    Forgive me for being a little slow. Two questions…

    A. What does Harrison receive in his pocket from the Steelers over the next two years if he is released in the next ten weeks?

    B. What does Harrison receive in his pocket from the Steelers over the next two years if he re-does his deal with a base salary of $4million less for the next TWO years and is released next year?

    If B is significantly ($1-$2 Million) more than A, he will likely take it. Harrison is pragmatic. He can’t earn $1-$2 Million next year doing something else. He is healthy and he has to make hay while the sun is shining. $1-$2 Million is still a lot of money.

  • zyzak

    They might be stuck with him, Worlds isn’t the answer, he is a major flop for Tomlin. I think 2013 is a rebuilding year for the team.

  • RW

    Forgive me, but what good is it to pay a 35 year old, star linebacker (who might play half a season) like a 26 year old phenom pass rusher? I understand he’s still a legitimate playmaker, but there are a few reasons not to keep him. First of all, let’s all take a deep breath and remember that the organization has cut other great LBs who appeared in their prime. James is 35. Second, it takes a damn good amount of time to learn this defense. Exhibit A: James Harrison, who it took 5 solid years to learn our defense and become effective in it. My point is, don’t give up on Worilds – it’s a confusing defense. Plus, ask yourself who led the team in sacks this year (in limited playing time, nonetheless). The organization will need to draft a natural pass rusher to hedge its bets, but there are more pressing needs than Harrison.

  • Timmons and Harrison were tied for team lead in sacks. Chad Brown is really the only linebacker we let go in his prime. The rest were basically done except Joey Porter who flourished for a year maybe two. I know Harrison can play, but we’re already hurting from a lack of depth, and getting rid of Harrison just compounds the problem. The answer is not through the draft at least anytime soon. If your point is to play Worilds than maybe bench Woodley.

  • lol, Carlos Emmons.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    We’re in a pickle because have noone to count on for ROLB. Cant count on them:
    * Harrison – not enuff left healthwise gave his body to NFL like Troy used it all up.
    * Worilds – Steelers losing patience with his injuries prevented him from even contributing on special teams.
    * Chris Carter not enuff instincts. Made no impact on special teams in 2 years. The previous year then all this last offseason & preseason to prepare to start at ROLB, aint a lot of time. But, at ROLB in a 3-4 defense, enuff runners & QBs & sack opportunities fall to you that its hard NOT to make any plays. Even an average bum wuld therefore make an occassional play at ROLB. Stubborn LeBeau stuck with Carter & Mundy too long just because they were in the system longer.

    I wish LeBeau wuld give BrandonJohnson & Robinson a fair chance.

  • Mike Carroll

    You actually can forget about Chris Carter because he been invisible when he plays. He should be cut regardless of what happens with Harrison.

  • Guest


  • Mike Carroll

    The offseason handling of Woodley is more important than how the team deals with Harrison. James is at the end of the road, maybe a year left, while Lamar should be in the prime of his career. Yet, he has done almost nothing in the team’s last 25 games (4 sacks in that span) and there is no guarantee he will ever return to the form the Steelers thought they getting when they made him one of the highest paid linebackers in the game. Would any team offer that contract to Woodley now? No! That is why it would be foolish for the team to force feed more of that same contract down his throat by restructuring him again this offseason. If the team is strong and smart, they will avoid the temptation to blindly believe in Woodley’s ability to return to form (and take the easy, temporary cap relief by restructuring his contract). Instead, they will begin to plan for the potential need to cut him down the road in the event he never returns to form. And that means doing absolutely nothing with his contract this offseason.

    By the way, I am not predicting Woodley will play poorly this upcoming season. In fact, he might even train his butt off and have a very good year for the team. But he might also suffer more hamstring problems or simply not be the player he was before the original hamstring tear.

    As for Harrison, I agree the team should ask him to take at least a 50% pay cut or the decision to let him go is an easy one. I’m not sure you keep him even with the 50% pay cut, but it’s really not a big deal either way at that point.

  • steeltown

    Rebuilding? They were #1 in pass Defense and #2 in run Defense. The Offense needs a few more pieces, yes, and we need a new special teams coach…. Worilds had more sacks than Woodley and only one less then Harrison in 2012.. and he did that with far less playing time

  • steeltown

    Agreed. He’s cheap while he is still in his rookie contract, but if they draft an OLB and A.Robinson shows improvement, then Carter might not even make the 53man roster next year

  • steeltown

    Actually after the final game of the season, Harrison did lead the Team in sacks BUT I get your point and I agree with it. Worilds had 5 sacks (one more than Woodley and one less then Harrison) and he did it with less playing time

  • steeltown

    The only way he comes back is if he takes a major paycut. It pains me to say it but Harrison might be gone. He is STILL a BEAST, but he just makes way too much money. Lets face it, it IS time to see what Worids can do as a full time starter.. not sure Carter even makes the 53man roster next year if they draft an OLB and A.Robinson improves

  • steeltown

    Lets not forget Harrison was on and off practice squads for 4-5yrs before he turned the corner and replaced Joey Porter… I think Worilds deserves a shot

  • steeltown

    I think regardless, Worilds needs to see the field more, he needs to start. Even Harrison struggled for 4-5yrs, bouncing around practice squads before becoming a starter by replacing Joey Porter in ’07 and he was 27yrs or 28yrs old by then, Worilds will be 25yrs by the start of next season, not sure we’ve seen enough to gauge just how good he really is.. but he’s up for contract in 2014. I think we should find out!

  • RW

    Okay with the exception of the very last game of the season, which didn’t matter, Worilds led the team in sacks. Also, you’re missing Kevin Greene, Earl Holmes and Kendrell Bell on that list. And you’re missing my point, which is that you should get what you pay for, and paying for a star pass rusher for an entire season at 35 years old is crazy. How much time has Harrison missed over the last two years? We have a salary cap, and when you look at cost/benefit, the signing of Keenan Lewis and Ramon Foster outweighs keeping Harrison on the roster. I can also understand your complaint with Woodley, as hist cost outweighs his benefit (which is why, in a previous post, I mention that the Steelers need to start betting on their own guys earlier than they do, when the risk is a bit higher but the overall cost is lower). Worilds is an adequate fill-in until a true pass rusher can be sufficiently groomed. There are too many other needs on this team right now for Harrison to be a priority.

  • RW

    Thanks – the sack total was an oversight on my part. In any case, Worilds is a fine fill-in for the time being until some natural pass rusher can be groomed to take over full time. My point was that Harrison is too expensive to keep and do all of the other necessary things we need to do to stay in playoff contention.

  • steeltown

    …Woodley….. ..Woodley…… anyone seen Woodley?

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I have no problem with bringing Harrison back, but I think when you look at it realistically, JH will not be here. It just doesn’t work out for us in any way.

    Woodley needs to find explosiveness again. He just seems to have lost it all. I don’t know if its the injuries which have caused it or if he isn’t in great cardio shape, but he just doesn’t seem to have it right now. I honestly would consider telling him to put on 20 lbs. this summer and move him to DE, I know that won’t happen, but he just isn’t doing it right now as a LB to me. I know the coaches say Robinson is a one trick pony, but if Woodley could do more than just rush the QB then maybe you could play Robinson.

  • steeltown

    I agree.. I think he may be too expensive which sucks because I think he’ll still be productive next year. I think Worilds is ready and should be given a chance, he’s up for contract in 2014, would hate to see us not utilize him or test his productivity, not sign him, only to watch him leave via FA and become a solid starter on another Team after we groomed him for 3-4yrs

  • Tim Culligan

    such a tricky situation. Worilds deserves the chance to be a starter, hes played well given the few chances he’s had and deserves to start. Bringing Harrison back isn’t smart money wise and possibly no smart personel wise. Idk though because if healthy he still brings big play potential to the table.

  • Tim Culligan

    if u forget about the names and history, 92 is a older guy with a high price tag and 2 years left. 93 is a younger guy who has had a few flashes but no real oppurtunity yet but if given the chance to start for a whole season, he could turn into a starter and a nice contract.

  • Tim Culligan

    assuming we draft a OLB, carter and robinson could end up fighting for the final spot, and robinson will have the lead to begin.

  • steeltown

    ..and there lies the problem that seems to plague this Team.. what if Worilds starts in 2013 and breaks out, then the asking price will be much higher (think K.Lewis) but if we dont let him start and have that possibility of breaking out then he’s not really worth re-signing at all… ha

  • steeltown

    Yes. Harrison has more left in the tank, I believe that

  • LouPGH

    I agree with every statement in this this comment thread.

  • Pete

    Yes, Farrior used the term knuckle head to describe Harrison when he first got with the team. Maybe he’s a slow learner or he had trouble getting the defense and knowing what he had to do. But he’s as strong as a bull. I think we’d have seen something from Worilds by now if he had it. The other worrisome thing is that Butler says he sees Worilds and Carter as the same player. All we can do is wait and see what happens. That should tell us a lot.

  • Pete

    I agree with Dave. If Butler feels Worilds can reproduce the production of Harrison then Harrison is probably gone. If Harrison is brought back at a reduced rate then that is a sure sign that Butler and company do not feel Worlids is ready for prime time. However, I wouldn’t call Worilds a bust in this situation. He’s trying to fill awfully big shoes and carry on the tradition of the great LB for the Steelers. If they take a chance on Worilds, lets hope he’s not a Carlos Emmons.

  • steeltown

    I have seen something from Worilds, he had more sacks than Woodley in 2012 and only started 3games (440 snaps overall) not to mention his tackle totals were pretty close to Woodleys as well.. thats inexcusable from Woodley and encouraging from Worilds, in my opinion

  • My bad. Totally forgot to mention Greene. The others are inside backers, so thought we were talking about rushers. BTW, Holmes was an a-hole. Who leaves the Steelers for the Browns??? I’m pretty sure he was replaced the next year by Farrior though. Great deal for us! Anyways, Bell and Holmes left through free agency because the Steelers didn’t want them. They weren’t cut. Harrison can still play and is under contract. If we can work that out somehow I hope we do. A lot of people say rush backers are the #1 priority for the Steelers in the off season, so why compound the problem if it can be afforded?