Post-Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette reported the Steelers and outside linebacker James Harrison are at an impasse in negotiations surrounding the contract of the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year, and it may lead to his release in the very near future.
Bouchette wrote the main hold-up is how a reduced salary for this season would work, indicating the discussion involves another year on his current deal, which is scheduled to pay him around $7.5 million this season. That money is not guaranteed, so Harrison has the choice of either taking what the Steelers are offering or seeing what he can get on the free agent circuit.
The issue for the Steelers lays simply in the question of depth. Logically speaking, if they felt they had the ability to move on without Harrison, they likely wouldn't be talking about re-working his deal at all. Harrison came on over the second half of the year after struggling with a knee injury through the first half. His strip-sack of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco ignited the Steelers to a surprising win over the eventual Super Bowl champions in Week 13.
Harrison finished the year with six sacks to tie for the team lead.
More than anything, Harrison's value is in his run support. The Steelers were gashed early in the season, both without Harrison and with Harrison playing at less than 100 percent. By the second half of the year, he looked much more of the same player he was in the past, strongly suggesting he's still got tread on the tires - even at 35 years of age.
From Harrison's perspective, he obviously wants the most money he can get for the longest amount of time. There's something to be said about having a better chance of playing into a second year on a new deal in the system he knows and has had a large amount of success in over the last six years. He's amenable to a re-worked deal to stay with what he knows. Clearly, though, he's going to have a floor level.
Per Bouchette's report, it seems as if what's being offered is lower than that floor. If Harrison is to be released, it will be soon. Free agency starts at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, and prospective free agents are free to talk to other teams starting Saturday.