James Harrison was axed by the Steelers after agreeing to a restructured contract wasn’t something that appealed to him. So to complete the screw you, he’s now signed with one of Pittsburgh’s division rivals.
The Bengals have filled a need at outside linebacker by signing Harrison to a two-year deal, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Harrison chimed in shortly after Rapoport’s report….
Whodey!!!!!!!!!!! Hello Cincinnati!!!!
— James Harrison (@jharrison9292) April 19, 2013
If you call Harrison old, you’re not wrong, and it proves that you can read a birth certificate, or at least whatever web outlet you turn to for such information (Wikipedia unite). Harrision will turn 35 next month, which is old for any position, but especially his position, and his game that’s rooted in speed off the edge. As his age has climbed, so has his missed playing time. Harrison has sat out eight games over the past two years.
But here’s another fact that’s not disputable, or at lest not yet: a healthy Harrision is an effective Harrison. Despite that missed time, Harrison still has 15 sacks since 2011. That speed isn’t gone yet.
With the Bengals, he’ll replace the departed Manny Lawson, and add to an already intimidating pass rush that recorded 51 sacks this past season. If Harrison plays even, say, 26 games over the length of this contract while reasonably maintaining his edge speed, this is a fine veteran bargain.
Does this shift the Bengals’ first-round draft direction? Maybe, but probably not. There’s still the need for more athleticism at the linebacker position, a trait that’s declining with Harrision. Arthur Brown has made his arbitrary April climb, and he’ll remain appealing for a team that desires lateral speed.