Cleveland Or Bust For James Harrison? Where Will The Former Steelers Linebacker Land?

Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison understands that the game of football is a business. On Saturday he was released after nine seasons in the Steel City and he is ready to get on with his career.

Harrison was a guest on NFL Network following his release and stated that he thinks he has three years, and possibly even four, left in him. He admitted that he would like to play for a Super Bowl contender if all possible and wouldn\’t mind playing in a city with good weather as well.

“I definitely have three years left, possibly four, but I\’m going where the wind blows,” Harrison said. “You obviously want to play for a Super Bowl contender, that\’s the first thing. Good weather, that wouldn\’t be a bad thing. … I\’m not closed to playing for any team or any area.”

Would he like to play with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady or Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning? Of course he would and he told Josina Anderson of ESPN that in his Saturday conversation with her.

“Of course it would be nice to play with Tom Brady,” Harrison told Anderson. “I mean who wouldn\’t want to. At the same time I\’m not opposed to playing with anyone. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning–anybody would want to play with them. Who wouldn\’t?”

Harrison will turn 35 in May, and even though he thinks he still has up to four years left in him, the reality is that he likely has two at the most.

So where could Harrison possibly land? The best spot would be with a team that plays a 3-4 defense, so that rules out half of the teams already. The Philadelphia Eagles are switching to the 3-4 this year, but as Eliot Shorr-Parks of New Jersey On-Line pointed out on Saturday, the Eagles financial commitment to Trent Cole coupled with Harrison\’s salary wants are two major roadblocks that make Philadelphia an unlikely landing spot.

What about the New Orleans Saints? Like the Eagles, they too are switching to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. While it might sound like a good fit, the Saints are still in the process of trying to get underneath the salary cap. They have been restructuring contracts right and left, and the last thing that they need is another $3-4 million cap hit in the form of Harrison. They locked up Junior Galette long-term on Saturday and seem set to play him and Martez Wilson at the outside linebacker spots. The Saints also play on an artificial surface, which is something that Harrison more than likely wants to stay away from if all possible.

What about the Green Bay Packers? I would say the chances of him landing there are slim as well. They already have Clay Matthews on the right side and invested a first round draft pick last April in Nick Perry, who will be returning from injury in 2013. The Packers are yet another team that is working with limited salary cap dollars, and also like the Steelers, they usually don\’t partake heavily in the signing of free agents.

The Kansas City Chiefs? Not with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston there. The Broncos? Manning is trying to recruit a 33 year-old Dwight Freeney to come to Denver should Elvis Dumervil be jettisoned. Some guy named Von Miller also plays on the other side.

What about the Arizona Cardinals? You know, Pittsburgh West. While I am not willing to rule them out, you have to wonder if new head coach Bruce Arians is ready to stop the trend of ex-Steelers coming to Arizona to retire. Could Harrison be a one-year band-aid there while they groom a future outside linebacker? I suppose, but would they really want to spend $4 plus million on Harrison?

What about the Indianapolis Colts? Is going from a 33 year-old Freeney to a 35 year-old Harrison really going to make that defense better? Keep in mind that a 35 year-old outside linebacker hasn\’t played in 16 games and registered 10 or more sacks since Rickey Jackson did it 20 years ago.

The Baltimore Ravens? They are unlikely to be able to keep Paul Kruger because of his price tag, so how in the world would they be able to afford Harrison and his salary demands? Ozzie Newsome seems like he would be smarter than that.

We are running out of teams, aren\’t we?

The Patriots might be in play, but Harrison would only be a situational player in that defense. Would they pay him $4 million plus to play in a defense that he really doesn\’t fit well in? It\’s possibly, I suppose.

The Washington Redskins? They have Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, and both seem stable there.

The San Francisco 49ers? Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks are the starters there.

The Houston Texans? I can\’t see room for Harrison there, either.

The New York Jets? You really think Harrison fits in with that group? He would kill Mark Sanchez.

The San Diego Chargers? Meh.

Hey, I know. What about the Cleveland Browns? They have the cap room. They have a new owner who was previously an investor in the Steelers. They have a defensive coordinator that was once a member of the Steelers defensive coaching staff. They could use some help at the outside linebacker position as they switch to a 3-4. Harrison was born in Akron, Ohio and went to Kent State. In all honestly, this might be the best fit for him. Bill Parise, Harrison\’s agent, even said following the release of his client on Saturday that he hopes Harrison lands in the AFC North. Why not Cleveland?

While I certainly wish Harrison the best, I just can\’t see many teams lining up to pay him the kind of money that he is looking for. The Browns seem the most logical fit as far as 3-4 teams go.

Could it be Cleveland or bust for Harrison? How interesting would that make two games next season?

  • LucasY59

    Used to be the Cardinals, last year the Colts, now the Browns.

    Funny how everyone wants to be the Steelers

  • DoctorNoah

    I’m still a little sad about this. Dave, what are the chances he holds out for too much and ends up back with the Steelers after all is said and done? Zero? Slight?

  • Nolrog

    3-4 years left? The dude is dillusional. I agree 2 at most, and I’d be surprised in fact if he did have 2.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    all players say that and I think its important for the little time they have left to believe that.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I believe there maybe chances he could be back…Im sure a lot of those team mentioned would get him for the right price…I would think he would stay in Pittsburgh if he doesnt get the contract he wants…even Cleveland shouldnt be throwing around 4M to a 35 year old OLB

  • TrueSteelerForLife

    Obviously, i would hate to see Deebo in Cleveland, even more so then Keenan Lewis. But money always talks. Just forget about winning another Superbowl James.

  • Ahmad

    Well the Browns are far from Super Bowl contenders and the weather sucks. So if Harrison goes there it will be about the money.

  • SteelSpine

    Yep. I would be surprised if he even passes every teams’ physical exam.

    Odds are someone will offer him a big 1-year deal. But if he doesn’t get enough medical clearance for a big enough contract that he wants, slight odds he’d be available in preseason if we become desperate (i.e Worilds gets hurt) like we did with Max Starks. I know that’s a stretch/low-odds, but crazy things have happened where teams re-signed old or banged-up former players when the team became desperate in preseason.

  • SteelSpine

    – Harrison tweeted a classy message upon being released; (per PG), he tweeted:
    “It’s been a great run, but all good things must come to an end. Thank you Steelers Nation, I will miss you.”

    – Off-track but reminds me how many bigger name Steelers than Harrison our Steelers had to cut or not re-sign in the past, due to old age or injuries tallying up or too $ to re-sign. Joe Greene, Franco etc. We’ll probly lose Keenan to FA bigger money, but seems long ago we used to lose more good starters. One offseason long ago we lost to FA: Leon Searcy (OT) & Kevin Greene & Neil O’Donnell.

  • mokhkw

    I’d say less than 1%. Main reason he’s gone is because the Steelers need the $s to sign younger players ( Lewis, McLendon etc.) and seeing he wouldn’t stay for a deal worth around $4-4.5mil (if my math is correct) then the chances are some team will pay him that or more. I wouldn’t discount 4-3 going after him as a RE; Kevin Green did it in SF after leaving the Panthers (played LE) and it makes sense at this stage of his career – his pass rush is still very good, but his coverage is average at best.

    Only scenario I can see him returning is if no other teams offer him any deal longer than a year for little more than vet minimum – and some teams have a lot of $s to use cap-wise (unlike the Steelers) and can afford to roll the dice.

    My $s are on the Pats signing him. BB is known to change his D schemes to suit whatever personnel he has at the time – he’s done it constantly the last 4 years – and Brady’s cap-friendly deal indicates they’re going for one more ring before BB and Brady walk off into the sunset together sometime around 2015.

    That’s if Harrison wants to end out with a potential SB winner, maybe the Jaguars, who have a ton of cap room ( and nice weather) could be an option if he’s only chasing the $s ( plus they have a recent history of over-paying for past-their-prime pass rushers).

    How I hate the business side of the NFL. I was hoping that the last CBA would have included a NBA-style Vet cap exemption so teams could retain their old champs until the end of their careers if they wished to.

  • mokhkw

    For anyone wondering which teams have the most $s to spend atm ( Steelers are currently around $5mil under the cap if I’m right):

    Above $40mil: Browns, Bengals, Colts

    Above $30mil: Bucs, Dolphins, Eagles, Jags

    Above $20mil: Falcons, Packers, Patriots

    I can’t see anyone who has less than $20mil being a player atm, teams have to allow for signing rookies and their own players, but these totals will change a lot in the coming days & weeks.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Though they may not all be all-pros, this will be the year that sees the most starters leave. Most of the following are all going to be gone; Harrison, Hampton, Lewis, Foote, Starks, Colon, Foster, Mendenhall, and Wallace. At best, only 3 of them could be back.

  • SteelSpine

    Fair point.
    And also at end of this upcoming season. Odds are could be last Steeler season for large number of Steelers due to either age or injuries: Keisel, Polomalu, Clark, Ike, & Foote if Foote plays this year, plus this last year for a few in contract year if don’t play enough or if dont justify Steelers giving them a competitive contract offer to re-sign here: Worilds, Ziggy, etc.

  • sean mcmartin

    Wonder if Cowher is laughing about Tomlin trying to make a team out of his picks.
    looks like Steelers will be out of the playoffs for awhile, Might as well try to trade BB and troy and admit they have no contender to field. Bringing back gay , getting rid of wallace, Lewis , Harrison,
    What they have left is the team coached by a statue and bookworm..

  • LouPGH

    Dude, what are you talking about?

    (1) Cowher had a ton of success; that is undeniable. And I loved his demeanor. Still, it took him fourteen years to win a Super Bowl.
    (2) Wallace and Lewis are both Tomlin picks, and it’s not as if we are “getting rid” of them; they played well enough that we may not be able to afford to keep them.
    (3) Harrison is not worth $5+ mil and wouldn’t take a pay cut. Also, if I’m not mistaken Harrison was an UDFA and, at one point, was cut under Cowher, so I’m not sure what your point is there.

    I’m not Tomlin’s biggest fan in the world — I think his clock management at the end of games is embarrassingly bad, for example — but get your facts straight. The team made a conscious decision a few seasons ago to hang on to some guys and make a final run for the Super Bowl. We came up short, just barely. It’s going to take a few years and some tough personnel changes before we can assemble the right group of guys. As a Steelers fan, you need to remember how good we have it.

  • LouPGH

    I really can’t see the Patriots paying him the sort of money he’s looking for; they’re too smart for that. I know they have a reputation for taking cast off vets, but it’s a high risk low reward situation for them. There are better young pass rushers on the market. Also, if I saw him in a Pats uniform, I’d puke.

  • dave

    Yep, agreed. It’s sort of funny, I remember reading the exact same type of posts about Cowher back in the late 90s and early 2000’s … “Cowher can’t win without Noll’s players, Cowher can’t draft, Cowher can’t win the big game, Cowher is over-rated” yada yada

    Also agree, the NFL is cyclical – the Steelers went “all in”
    to keep some aging veterans together to win another Super Bowl and fell short.

  • 1 or 2 players don’t make a team Steelers have always been the next man up type of team that develops their own stars from within Gay wasn’t that bad actually he made a few plays for our team in the playoffs he got a sack or two coming off the edge my all time favorite is IKE coming off the edge and causing a fumble Gay recovering it against the JETS in 2011 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP that me and my wife attended Wiz Khalifa was there at the end of that game it was 3rd and 6 yards to go 1:58 left on the clock and we needed a conversion to have the game out of reach. The Jets were sending heat bc Pouncey went down and Legursky was being trashed all night he already gave up a few sacks and a safety that helped the Jets comeback. Ben extended the play and passed it to the player we drafted with the Jets 6th round draft pick Antonio Brown. That game hurt Holmes. Players act like they can’t be replaced like Holmes and now Wallace. Oh and F.Y.I. it wasn’t Cowher making picks it was Kevin Colbert the same man that’s been analyzing talent for our team since 2000 im sure coaches have some say on players but the decisions are ultimately made by the GM when it comes to drafting I guess Tomlin gets no credit for Timmons, Woodley, and so many others a I can see us getting a CB from Tomlin’s alma mater B.W. WEBB when Lewis walks

  • walter mason

    Why didnt you just take the paycut James?