James Harrison: Underpaid but overrated?

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
2:00
PM ET
If you've ever felt like you don't get paid enough or aren't appreciated, Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker James Harrison feels your pain.

Last week, Forbes named Harrison as the NFL's most underpaid player in 2013. The 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year is making $2.6 million this season when you combine his signing bonus and this year's salary. He topped players such as Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty and Seahawks cornerback Antoine Winfield.

Harrison's salary is a sore subject. This offseason, Harrison refused to play in Pittsburgh for $4.6 million, which was a 30 percent pay cut, and the Steelers released him. So, when looking at what he's making in Cincinnati, he lost $2 million by not taking the Steelers' offer. For that reason, Harrison probably isn't pleased to be named the most underpaid player because it's just a reminder of a bad financial decision.

Then, when ESPN.com's countdown of the top 100 defensive players began Monday, Football Outsiders named Harrison among the most overrated. He is ranked No. 99, just ahead of Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. This is what Football Outsiders had to say:
Harrison's transition to Cincinnati's 4-3 scheme probably won't be too difficult, as the Steelers drop their outside linebackers into coverage more than most 3-4 teams because they run so many zone blitzes, and the Bengals will surely move Harrison around and blitz him so he can get after the passer. The question is less how he adapts to a new scheme and more just how much he has left in the tank.

I don't think the Bengals have any notions of Harrison recording double-digit sacks and handful of forced fumbles like he did in his prime. What the 35-year-old linebacker can bring is a meanness and toughness to a young, up-and-coming defense. While I agree his play at this stage of his career is overrated, his intangibles are somewhat underrated. And, if you agree with Forbes, this comes at a bargain.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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