Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Could Harrison land back in AFC North?
By Jamison Hensley
When James Harrison refused to take a pay cut, which led to the Steelers' releasing him, the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker probably didn't assess his demand in the free-agent market. If he did, he probably would've taken the Steelers' best offer.
Let's take a look at some teams that have been linked to Harrison:
Eagles: Harrison has expressed an interest in Philadelphia, but NFC East blogger Dan Graziano would be surprised if the feeling was mutual. The 35-year-old linebacker doesn't fit into coach Chip Kelly's defensive rebuild that requires younger, faster players.
Patriots: Harrison told ESPN that he would like to play for quarterback Tom Brady. My guess is Brady and coach Bill Belichick will remember Harrison's tweet after the Patriots' Super Bowl XLVI loss: "Told you, cheaters never win!!!!!!!!!" So, Harrison can probably cross the Patriots off his list.
Saints: The Saints are another team switching to the 3-4 defense, so they would be a logical fit. The only problem is the Saints are still trying to get under the cap. Unless they can create more space, the Saints aren't signing anyone, much less Harrison.
Broncos: Denver could be in the market for a pass-rusher, especially if the Broncos release Elvis Dumervil for salary-cap reasons. The Broncos would have their choice of Harrison or Dwight Freeney. With Peyton Manning running the show in Denver, you would think Freeney would be the favorite to go to Mile High.
This takes us to the AFC North. The Ravens and Browns both are in the market for a pass-rusher. Baltimore is expected to lose linebacker Paul Kruger, who could end up in Cleveland. The Ravens, though, won't be making many moves if they can't get wide receiver Anquan Boldin to take a pay cut or if they don't release fullback Vonta Leach (which would open up $3 million in space).
Cleveland should be able to get Harrison if the team wants him. The Browns need a pass-rushing linebacker, and they are one of the teams that don't have cap concerns. There is also the connection of new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, who was a minority owner for the Steelers. But the Browns have so many options when it comes to addressing the pass rush, from Kruger to Detroit's Cliff Avril to the draft (Oregon's Dion Jordan and Georgia's Jarvis Jones). So the Browns don't exactly need Harrison, either.
Where will Harrison end up? No one knows for sure at this point. It's just safe to assume teams won't be lining up for him.