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|Marvin Harrison's career numbers are among the best ever, but how much does the 36-year-old have left in the tank?|
Marvin Harrison's legacy is firm. He was named to eight consecutive Pro Bowls, has been a first-team All-Pro three times and stands as second all time in career receptions (1,102), fourth in career receiving yards (14,580) and fifth in receiving touchdowns (128).
He also now stands with Ike Hilliard, Joey Galloway and Jerry Porter as veteran receivers, recently released, looking for a job.
What's Harrison worth now? What's he got left?
"When he's hungry and healthy, boy, people have to respect him still being out there on the field," Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri told ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd on Thursday.
At the scouting combine, analyst Charley Casserly said on the NFL Network that Harrison would be best off if he ultimately went back to the Colts, willing to play for less: "This is his best chance for success if he wants to play next year. I'm not sure he'll get one offer in free agency."
I spoke with two AFC personnel men this week and with Casserly, the former Washington and Houston GM, as part of an interview on "The Wake Up Zone" in Nashville on Thursday. They didn't have a universal opinion on anything regarding Harrison, so this sampling covers the spectrum.
Let's break things down into some manageable categories.
Remaining skills: He's not the guy who in 2002 averaged 107.6 receiving yards a game, that's safe to say. Last year he had one game of over 80 yards and three more over 70. After that his high was 50 yards.
Casserly: "You've got to separate the name and then look at the facts. This guy is a Hall of Fame player, we all know that. This guy's been a great player, we all know that. But people don't play forever. Last two years, he's been hurt a lot. Thirty-six years old. Speed's not there anymore. He's more of a quickness, savvy, crafty, veteran type-receiver. He is not a complete receiver at this point of his career. He was never a guy that was a big inside receiver, that wasn't him. He was a vertical guy."
Personnel Guy No. 1: "He's still quick and he can still catch the ball. He's crafty and he runs relatively well ... how much he has left, when you start getting to the end of a career, guys hit the wall pretty quickly. Their production usually doesn't taper off, it usually drops off when you get in your mid-30s."
Personnel guy No. 2: "He's not that threat like he used to be where he's just going to take it from anywhere on the field. He still runs OK, but not like he used to."
Potential role elsewhere: He hasn't been a No. 1 in Indianapolis in a while with Reggie Wayne's ascendance, and Harrison isn't going to be the top option for another team either.
Will it be hard for him to accept a lesser status?
One interesting issue here is his willingness to be physical. There were passes from Peyton Manning last year on which Harrison seemed to pull up or shy away from an approaching defender. That might not go over well in a new setting.
Personnel guy No. 2: "You can let him come down as a solid veteran possession receiver that can get away from press, that can find holes in zone, that can still run good routes and be productive."
Personnel guy No. 1: "The thing is, people have really knocked him for the lack of physicality and he seems to be a little bit more protective as a player than he was in the past ...
"As for a role, I think he could still play, but I don't think he'll ever be a frontline No. 1 receiver. I can see him being a two, I can see him being a three. The thing is with a three, most of those guys you're going to want to put them in the slot. I don't know that that's necessarily his game. It depends on the team. He's a two-slash-three."
Casserly: "Right off the bat there are some systems this guy doesn't fit into [because he's not a great fit [in the slot.] Can he practice every day? He didn't with the Colts. When you bring in a new player and you pay him quite a bit of money, everybody is going to look around; this guy's got to do one of two things: He's got to be a dominating player on the field and we'll put up with what he doesn't do off the field, or, if can't practice and he's not a dominating player, then that doesn't help your team chemistry."
Price tag: Harrison isn't going to approach the $7 million he was set to earn with the Colts in 2009. The minimum for a veteran with 10 or more years of experience in 2009 is $845,000.
Personnel guy No. 1: "I don't know really what kind of value he's going to have on the open market. I would anticipate that with as good a career as he's had and so forth, that there will be some interest. The biggest thing with him is going to be his own perceived value versus what teams value him as.
"He's played his whole career in that one system, so finding a lateral system that he fits in will be a little bit of a challenge. I think there will be a lot of teams that might be interested in a veteran receiver for the vet minimum or something like that. But I think whether or not he can see himself doing that or playing for that is more on how he sees himself as opposed to how teams see him."
Personnel guy No. 2: "I think probably a little bit more than the minimum, I think it'll probably be a one-year deal that's loaded with some incentive he can reach, something like that."
Landing spots: There has been no quick action on Harrison. It's possible he's the type of veteran who, in this market, floats around for a while. Then, when teams have sorted through personnel, the phone could ring.
Casserly: "In my own opinion, if he wants to play he should stay in Indianapolis. He knows the system, they know him, they know how to take care of his body, they know what routes he can run.
"From the Colts' point of view, these are never easy breakups. My feeling is in those situations, you don't offer the player a pay cut, you don't insult the player. The player knows he's making more money than he's worth at that point in time, even though he may not admit it to you. But he knows that. Release the player, then let the player come to you if he chooses and say, you know, 'this is where I want to play.' And then you sit down and try to read whether you think he'll be a good teammate on a pay cut. That is a very touchy situation. And sometimes you're better off not having him even on the team, because unless he's going to be a real happy guy, then it's not going to work."
Personnel guy No. 2: "Tennessee could use a veteran guy like that to bring that leadership to a playoff team. They've seen him twice a year and the damage he's done. The Eagles with Donovan McNabb, he's been looking for them to upgrade and bring in some more players the caliber of Marvin. And look at a team like Detroit. They've got the big guy on the outside [in Calvin Johnson], they need another guy. It's an indoor facility and Marvin's played his whole career indoors. I could see a team like that showing some interest in Marvin."
Personnel guy No. 1: "I don't see many of those offensive coaches having branched off and gone other places and established that type of deal they are playing. A lot of it revolves around the quarterback and the system. So I don't necessarily see that there is a parallel fit. I just think when the dust settles and somebody needs a veteran receiver that can come in and bring that veteran presence then there might be a fit for him there."
My sense is the Titans won't be interested -- they don't chase receivers and they don't chase older guys.
Timing: It's hard to imagine there is a rush to sign Harrison. Could he be floating out there until training camp?
Personnel guy No. 1: "I don't think anyone is going to jump on him right off the bat. I think it would be one of those deals where he has to let the dust settle and teams kind of see what they have left and go through free agency and through the draft and maybe even get into training camp and then decide they need a veteran receiver if they don't like what they have. Even then I don't know that he's going to get the big-time money that he's made in the past."