There will be many tough decisions upcoming for Pittsburgh Steelers’ general manager Kevin Colbert.
None of those is likely a tougher decision than what to do with linebacker James Harrison.
According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers are likely to release Harrison before the Tuesday 4 p.m. free-agency deadline if he and his agent do not agree to restructure his massive contract.
Harrison’s current contract runs through the 2014-2015 season. He is scheduled to make $6.57 million in 2013 with a cap hit of around $10 million and $7.58 million in 2014. According to Bouchette, the Steelers want the 34-year-old to take a pay cut, but an agreement on a restructured contract hasn’t been made yet.
The soon to be 35-year old is a five-time Pro Bowler and the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but injuries have been piling up as of late as Harrison missed the first three games of last season after undergoing knee surgery. But he rebounded down the stretch, finishing with six sacks and two forced fumbles.
It really was inevitable that the Steelers would choose to release Harrison as he makes a lot of money and his production the past few seasons simply doesn’t warrant paying him that much money. His agent Bill Parise has said in the past that Harrison would not be willing to take a pay cut, but would be interested in restructuring his deal.
That is not an option for the Steelers, as it makes little sense to restructure the deal of a 35-year old just to face more cap problems in future seasons.
The Steelers coaching staff has also said in the past that they want Harrison back, but the organization is one that doesn’t back down. If Harrison isn’t willing to take a massive pay cut then he is all but gone.
According to Bouchette, Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, said, “We absolutely want to do this; we absolutely want to be in Pittsburgh.”
But again, the ball is in their court as it all comes down to how little money Harrison is willing to accept as it was apparent after last season that the Steelers are going to get younger no matter how many tough decisions they have to make.
The good news in the Harrison situation is that his release would free up some valuable cap space, not only for this season but next season as well.
The bad news is that the Steelers currently don’t have many internal options to replace him at the moment; however the extra cap space could give them options.
This situation was inevitable from the time the season finale against Cleveland ended. This isn’t 2008. Harrison isn’t the irreplaceable player that he once was.