Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote in his latest Monday Morning Quarterback article that former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison is the coldest free agent of them all right now at the annual NFL owners\’ meetings that are currently going on out in Arizona.
King says that he cannot find anyone admitting to being interested in the soon-to-be 35 year-old linebacker, and that if he wants to play this year, he\’ll have to do it for less than half of what he was supposed to make for the Steelers in 2013.
Is any of this surprising to me? No, not at all.
Now that King has posted what he did about Harrison, several are speculating that he might wind up back in Pittsburgh. While I am not ready to guarantee that won\’t happen, a Harrison return would mean that he would have to agree to play for about $2 million, and more than likely even less.
Prior to his release, Harrison was scheduled to count $10.035 million against the 2013 salary cap. His release resulted in a dead money hit of $4.93 million. That dead money hit doesn\’t change even if Harrison were to sign back with the Steelers. Giving Harrison a one-year contract for $2 million without a signing bonus would mean that the Steelers really only saved $3.105 million against the cap after the smoke clears. A two-year deal with a signing bonus is certainly out of the question, at least in my eyes.
Keep in mind that the Steelers had to move on once they released Harrison. They could not assume that he might ultimately want to return at a later date at a discounted rate. They reportedly wanted him to take a pay cut in order to stay and he declined it. The two sides moved on.
The free agency signing period is not even one week old right now and it would be surprising to see Harrison and his agent Bill Parise give up so soon. Should Harrison remain unsigned come June or July, he might be willing to play for a one-year deal for around $2 million. By that time the Steelers will have more than likely have signed most of their draft picks and the release of guard Willie Colon will be made official, thus clearing $5.5 million more in cap space.
Would they have room for Harrison at that point? Possibly, but I wouldn\’t be holding your breath in the meantime.