Cleveland Or Bust For James Harrison? Where Will The Former Steelers Linebacker Land?

Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison understands that the game of football is a business. On Saturday he was released after nine seasons in the Steel City and he is ready to get on with his career.

Harrison was a guest on NFL Network following his release and stated that he thinks he has three years, and possibly even four, left in him. He admitted that he would like to play for a Super Bowl contender if all possible and wouldn\’t mind playing in a city with good weather as well.

“I definitely have three years left, possibly four, but I\’m going where the wind blows,” Harrison said. “You obviously want to play for a Super Bowl contender, that\’s the first thing. Good weather, that wouldn\’t be a bad thing. … I\’m not closed to playing for any team or any area.”

Would he like to play with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady or Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning? Of course he would and he told Josina Anderson of ESPN that in his Saturday conversation with her.

“Of course it would be nice to play with Tom Brady,” Harrison told Anderson. “I mean who wouldn\’t want to. At the same time I\’m not opposed to playing with anyone. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning–anybody would want to play with them. Who wouldn\’t?”

Harrison will turn 35 in May, and even though he thinks he still has up to four years left in him, the reality is that he likely has two at the most.

So where could Harrison possibly land? The best spot would be with a team that plays a 3-4 defense, so that rules out half of the teams already. The Philadelphia Eagles are switching to the 3-4 this year, but as Eliot Shorr-Parks of New Jersey On-Line pointed out on Saturday, the Eagles financial commitment to Trent Cole coupled with Harrison\’s salary wants are two major roadblocks that make Philadelphia an unlikely landing spot.

What about the New Orleans Saints? Like the Eagles, they too are switching to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. While it might sound like a good fit, the Saints are still in the process of trying to get underneath the salary cap. They have been restructuring contracts right and left, and the last thing that they need is another $3-4 million cap hit in the form of Harrison. They locked up Junior Galette long-term on Saturday and seem set to play him and Martez Wilson at the outside linebacker spots. The Saints also play on an artificial surface, which is something that Harrison more than likely wants to stay away from if all possible.

What about the Green Bay Packers? I would say the chances of him landing there are slim as well. They already have Clay Matthews on the right side and invested a first round draft pick last April in Nick Perry, who will be returning from injury in 2013. The Packers are yet another team that is working with limited salary cap dollars, and also like the Steelers, they usually don\’t partake heavily in the signing of free agents.

The Kansas City Chiefs? Not with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston there. The Broncos? Manning is trying to recruit a 33 year-old Dwight Freeney to come to Denver should Elvis Dumervil be jettisoned. Some guy named Von Miller also plays on the other side.

What about the Arizona Cardinals? You know, Pittsburgh West. While I am not willing to rule them out, you have to wonder if new head coach Bruce Arians is ready to stop the trend of ex-Steelers coming to Arizona to retire. Could Harrison be a one-year band-aid there while they groom a future outside linebacker? I suppose, but would they really want to spend $4 plus million on Harrison?

What about the Indianapolis Colts? Is going from a 33 year-old Freeney to a 35 year-old Harrison really going to make that defense better? Keep in mind that a 35 year-old outside linebacker hasn\’t played in 16 games and registered 10 or more sacks since Rickey Jackson did it 20 years ago.

The Baltimore Ravens? They are unlikely to be able to keep Paul Kruger because of his price tag, so how in the world would they be able to afford Harrison and his salary demands? Ozzie Newsome seems like he would be smarter than that.

We are running out of teams, aren\’t we?

The Patriots might be in play, but Harrison would only be a situational player in that defense. Would they pay him $4 million plus to play in a defense that he really doesn\’t fit well in? It\’s possibly, I suppose.

The Washington Redskins? They have Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, and both seem stable there.

The San Francisco 49ers? Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks are the starters there.

The Houston Texans? I can\’t see room for Harrison there, either.

The New York Jets? You really think Harrison fits in with that group? He would kill Mark Sanchez.

The San Diego Chargers? Meh.

Hey, I know. What about the Cleveland Browns? They have the cap room. They have a new owner who was previously an investor in the Steelers. They have a defensive coordinator that was once a member of the Steelers defensive coaching staff. They could use some help at the outside linebacker position as they switch to a 3-4. Harrison was born in Akron, Ohio and went to Kent State. In all honestly, this might be the best fit for him. Bill Parise, Harrison\’s agent, even said following the release of his client on Saturday that he hopes Harrison lands in the AFC North. Why not Cleveland?

While I certainly wish Harrison the best, I just can\’t see many teams lining up to pay him the kind of money that he is looking for. The Browns seem the most logical fit as far as 3-4 teams go.

Could it be Cleveland or bust for Harrison? How interesting would that make two games next season?

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