After not seeing eye-to-eye on his contract, the Pittsburgh Steelers have released outside linebacker James Harrison after ten seasons with the team, making the former Defensive Player of the Year a free agent.
Harrison, who will be 35 years old at the start of the 2013 season, was due about $6.5 million.
Originally undrafted out of college, Harrison was selected to five Pro Bowls as a Steeler. Now, he will be moving on from the only NFL team he’s ever known, trying to prove he’s still got something left in the tank.
The New York Jets are in need of edge rushers, after parting ways with both of their veteran starting outside linebackers this offseason. But don’t hold your breath expecting Harrison to join the Jets.
Harrison wasn’t happy taking a pay cut from $6.5 million, and there’s little chance that the cash-strapped Jets would be willing to offer Harrison anywhere near that amount, even if he proves to be fully healthy.
The best chance for the Jets to upgrade their pass rush is to find some edge rushing talent via the 2013 NFL Draft, where they’ll have plenty of talent to choose from with the ninth overall pick of the draft.
The Jets have two picks in the top 39 of the draft, and it’s possible one or both of those picks go towards pass rushers. Ideally, they want to bring in players who can set the edge in the run game as well as rush the passer.
If James Harrison is healthy, he’s still good enough in the run game to be worth signing to a free agent deal. He may not be as productive a pass rusher as he used to be, but he’s still a quality player.
At the end of the day, however, I wouldn’t expect to see the Jets make a serious push for Harrison’s services unless he can be had at an affordable salary. Getting value through the draft is a much safer bet for Gang Green.