James Harrison? And the Bengals?
Let me try again.
James Harrison. And the Bengals?
Maybe it will happen. Apparently, the sides met this week in Cincinnati.
Harrison needs a chance to extend his career after being released by the Steelers in a move that certainly was salary related but was performance related, too. He’ll be 35 next season and isn’t the pass rusher he used to be. The Bengals feel like they’re ready to take the next step, already have a veteran locker room and — most importantly — can afford Harrison.
Even at a well reduced rate from what he’s been making, Harrison is still looking to get paid. If a team thinks he can get his body ready each week to contribute and bring his brand of violence, leadership and playmaking, it will pay him.
That James Harrison? In Cincinnati?
This is the NFL. Stranger things have happened.
Harrison has had a remarkable career, going from prop 48 and paying his own way at Kent State to undrafted to cut multiple times to NFL Europe to 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, multiple-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl hero.
Especially because the market has probably dictated that Harrison won’t get a ton of money, this potential pairing makes sense on many levels — except that the Bengals play a 4-3 base defense. They need linebackers, though, as right now at outside linebacker they have Vontaze Burfict (who might be best as a middle linebacker) and a bunch of either backups or developmental-type players. Or maybe both.
But the Bengals believe in their core, and they believe in their locker room, and they believe in the abilities of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to be creative and get the most out of what he has. Zimmer has never been scared of taking on a guy on his last chance, and for Harrison this almost certainly is that.
Last December, Zimmer had the Bengals playing about as well as any defense in the league. He has some tinkering to do and some guys to replace, but he has players who know him and believe in what he’s doing, too. If he sees Harrison as a rusher or as a spot player or whatever, he’ll make it work if there’s any way to make it work. Based on what we know about his other job prospects, it’s probably in Harrison’s best interests to try to make it work.
Again, stranger things have happened.
Again, it’s ALWAYS about the money. So, we’ll see.
Maybe Harrison’s body is only cut out for a certain number of snaps from here on out. Or, maybe he’ll play special teams ’til he’s 50 because football is what he knows.
For the Bengals, finding out might be a chance worth taking. Where the Bengals want to go goes through Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and even if Harrison isn’t cut out for full-go over a full season, he’ll be more than ready for those games.