Thanks to the two-year, $2.75 million contract that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison signed in March of 2015, he is now scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.25 million in 2016 and carry a salary cap charge of $1.5 million. Because of that, combined with his continued high-level of play, Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus has Harrison ranked as his third most underpaid veteran currently in the league in a recent insider post on ESPN.com.
Jahnke devised his own Value Model based on PFF’s player ratings from 2015 and then formulated his underpaid rankings after comparing each player positionally to other players around the league. He did, however, use player’s total salary cap charge instead of just using what each of them is scheduled to earn salary wise. Here is what he wrote about Harrison.
2016 cap hit: $1.5 million
2016 JVM: $7.7 million
Value differential: $6.2 million
Now that Charles Woodson is retired, Harrison at 38 years old is the oldest player in the NFL outside of quarterbacks and special teamers. The Steelers have retained Harrison on a hometown discount the past three years because his play and playing time have both been expected to decline. No outside linebacker in Pittsburgh played more snaps than Harrison in 2015, and while he might not be at his peak; he’s still one of the league’s best pass-rushers. Harrison had a pressure on 16.3 percent of his pass rushes, ranking as the fifth best among 3-4 outside linebackers. This has helped lead him to the third spot on the undervalued players list for the second straight year. Pass-rushers are among the highest-paid players just after quarterbacks, so the fact the Steelers can get a player that good at a fraction of the cost for multiple years is amazing.
Harrison is once again expected to split time at right outside linebacker Jarvis Jones in 2016 and because of that there’s no reason to believe that he won’t play at least 50% of the team’s total defensive snaps.
After registering 5 total sacks last season, Harrison now has 74.5 of them as a member of the Steelers. He needs 3 more sacks in 2016 in order to overtake Jason Gildon has the franchise’s all-time leader in that statistical category. Should Harrison wind up registering 5 or more sacks in 2016 he will become just the fifth different player in the history of the NFL to accomplish such a feat at 38 years of age or older.