The Steelers and James Harrison are "trying to find common ground" on his contract situation, the linebacker's agent told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Whether they can get there will probably determine whether Harrison is on the Steelers this season.
Pittsburgh's best option is to get Harrison to reduce his $6.57 million salary for this year. But Harrison's agent indicated that the linebacker won't reduce his salary to stay with the Steelers. Harrison's preference is to restructure his contract to reduce his $10.03 million cap hit (likely freeing $3 million in space). But that would push more of a cap hit into 2014, the last year of Harrison's contract, in a year when the cap is expected to remain flat.
Unless I'm missing something, I don't really see an easy compromise. It looks like either Harrison has to have a change of heart on a pay cut or the Steelers have to restructure his deal (something they chose not to do last season).
Working for Harrison is the fact that the Steelers don't have anyone proven to replace him. Pittsburgh can't have confidence that Jason Worilds or Chris Carter can handle a starting job for an entire season.
Working against Harrison is his age and injury history. He turns 35 in May and he's missed a total of eight games the past two seasons.
Harrison wasn't his usual dominant self last season, but he was effective after recovering from knee surgery. He finished with 70 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles.
“The Steelers have made it clear to me they want James to stay, and James and I have made it very clear that he wants to be a Steeler,” Harrison's agent, Bill Parise told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “So we're working to try to make that happen.”
If the sides can't find that common ground, the Steelers face a tough decision with Harrison before free agency begins March 12. Cutting Harrison would create $5.1 million in cap room.