My whole world has been turned upside down. The Pittsburgh Steelers are usually the team that doesn’t go after big name free agents, instead choosing to retain their own, let bad potential contracts leave, and bring back former Steelers when the price and situation is right. So, imagine my surprise when I heard that the Steelers have no plans to re-sign current free agent linebacker James Harrison and instead are pursuing free agent defensive end/linebacker Dwight Freeney, most recently of the Indianapolis Colts.
The resumes of Harrison and Freeney read like two different stories in the beginning. Harrison went undrafted and Freeney was a first round pick. Freeney hit the ground running in the NFL while Harrison labored and was released more than once before finding a home with the Steelers. But once both players hit their prime, it was hard to say which was better when both were at their best.
But is bringing Freeney in a better option than bringing Harrison back? It’s really a judgment call, but there are really two factors that would influence this decision. One is, of course, money. I know that the market for pass rushers is not great this offseason, judging by the contracts that some of the other free agents have gotten. I would attribute at least some of that to the depth of the class of these hybrid pass rushers in the upcoming NFL draft. There are 10 or 12 players in the draft who look the part of top end elite hybrid rush linebackers, and will be younger and cheaper than anyone on the market.
The other factor is likely age. Even though you might not realize it, Harrison is actually almost two years older than Freeney. Because Harrison hasn’t been a known commodity nearly as long as Freeney, one might assume the contrary. Freeney just turned 33 and Harrison will be 35 in May. Of course, that is balanced out to some degree by the nearly 50 more starts that Freeney has had.
My take-Ultimately it comes down to money. The difference between these players is negligible. They are both very talented players who are on the back sides of their careers and probably best suited for a rotational type of role. So for a team that is cash strapped, if the Steelers want to add another pass rusher they should do what they think is right from a fiscal standpoint. I suppose if I had a personal preference it might be to bring Harrison back because he is a known commodity and so familiar with the system. I presume the Steelers know this as well which makes me wonder why they have closed the door on bringing him back unless it’s simply a matter of the all mighty dollar.