Just one year after signing on with the team, James Harrison has been released by the Cincinnati Bengals. The release was not an entirely surprising one considering how much the veteran’s skills have deteriorated, and it should cement the 35-year-old’s retirement from the NFL.
Over the last few years, Harrison has been on a terminal decline production wise, going from nine sacks to six and then finally two over the last three seasons. Furthermore, he has been attributed with one pass defended combined over the past three seasons, forced a grand total of four fumbles and he had a career low 31 tackles during the 2013 season.
More than just seeing his statistical production go down is the fact that Harrison hasn’t been nearly the same player in terms of impact on the field that he used to be. He has been significantly slowed down by the wear and tear of being a player who plays with his heart on his sleeve and isn’t nearly as fast or strong as he was when he made five Pro Bowl appearances in a row from 2007 to 2011. That the veteran linebacker isn’t willing to adopt a more finesse style of play only has exacerbated his physical deterioration.
An inability to adjust to a more finesse style of play has seen Harrison’s influence at the line of scrimmage brought down to nearly nothing, and wear and tear has left him unable to be a every-down linebacker. At this point Harrison is nothing more than a veteran leader in the locker room, which has value, but isn’t worth a roster spot above a young, talented and hungry linebacker.
It is telling that the Bengals were not even willing to pay the veteran a $2.034 million salary cap hit for the 2014 season because of his vastly deteriorated skills. After being released in back to back years, it is clear that Harrison is not a wanted man any longer and retirement is looming.