You may have read on here yesterday that James Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, confirmed what we already knew all along, that his client wishes to return to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017. But the veteran agent added to that minor revelation with a slightly more significant one: Harrison wants a two-year deal.
The former Defensive Player of the Year signed a two-year contract with the Steelers following the 2014 season, during which he was brought back three games in due to injury need at the outside linebacker position. That contract will expire at the outset of free agency in a couple of weeks’ time.
Harrison was a spry and youthful 36 at the time of the signing of that contract, but now, at 38, he likely has an even better case in terms of his on-field production to ensure some sort of stability in the form of a contract that extends beyond one year.
He did, after all, move from being the bottom half of the rotation at right outside linebacker to start the season to playing almost every snap as the starter by the end of the year. He recorded five sacks during the regular season and added another two and a half in the playoffs, adding an interception and three forced fumbles, including the postseason run.
It was Jeremy Fowler writing for ESPN who reported that Harrison is seeking a two-year contract, rather than taking it one year at a time. This is a notable development because he has been seemingly taking it year by year for the past few seasons. After all, he did retire following the 2013 season for a few weeks.
The Steelers were able to sign the former All-Pro to a $2.75 million contract in 2014 over the span of the two years. His play on the field has clearly warranted consideration of perhaps double that, especially if they continue to view him as the starter entering the 2017 season, which one would have to imagine that they do.
It was just around this time last year that Harrison announced officially that he would be returning for his 14th NFL season, in spite of the fact that he was already under contract. Obviously, he is at a position in his career in which he is always considering retirement.
Or perhaps not, if he is looking for a two-year contract, not that that guarantees that he will see through the life of that deal. From a physical, on-field standpoint, it would probably wise not to bet against it, but a lot can happen over the course of a year.
The Steelers re-signed Harrison just a week or two into free agency in the spring of 2014, which many viewed as rather early for him. They brought him back in part because they believed he would serve as a leader in the locker room.
He has proven to be everything that they were hoping he would for the team since he returned, and considering that they have not found a suitable replacement for him yet, it would not be surprising if a new deal gets done before the start of free agency, assuming that they get Antonio Brown’s extension wrapped up in time.