After more than a month of haggling, and intermittent acrimony in the bargaining between the two teams, the Lions accepted a sixth-round pick in the 2007 draft in exchange for the four-year veteran. The choice can escalate to a fifth-rounder if Harrington reaches certain playing time thresholds.
The deal will allow Harrington to begin participating in Miami's organized team activities, which begin on Monday. The Dolphins pushed for a resolution to the prolonged talks because they want Harrington to have time to assimilate the offense before the club convenes for a three-day mini-camp June 9-11.
Last month, Miami offered Detroit a sixth-round selection in the 2007 draft and the Lions refused to make a deal. In fact, Lions team president Matt Millen attempted during the draft to seek other suitors and was in talks with the Cleveland Browns about a trade. But because of his contractual situation, and the need for any new team to readjust a deal deemed too prohibitive for a backup, Harrington held some leverage and essentially refused to discuss a restructuring with any team but the Dolphins.
Apparently, adding the provision that can raise the compensation to a fifth-round choice was enough to satisfy Detroit officials.
Under his Detroit contract, Harrington was due a $4 million roster bonus on June 15 and a 2006 base salary of $4.5 million. Until the latest movement in talks between the Lions and Dolphins, it appeared that Millen might simply keep Harrington until just before the roster bonus became due.
Harrington last month reached a tentative two-year agreement with the Dolphins, which prompted Millen to suggest that Miami officials had acted improperly. The NFL Management Council, the league's labor arm, ruled that there was no impropriety, and that Harrington was free to deal with teams because the Lions had granted him and agent David Dunn the right to seek out potential trade partners.
At various times after the Lions publicly announced that Harrington would not return in 2006, and that they would attempt to trade him, various franchises indicated interest in the former University of Oregon star. He visited with the Cincinnati Bengals and there were indications that the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs had varying degrees of interest as well. None of those teams stepped forward, however, with the kind of conviction the Dolphins demonstrated.
The Dolphins covet Harrington as an insurance policy against the possibility that starting quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who is still rehabilitating from surgery to repair three torn ligaments in his right knee, might not be available at the outset of the regular season. Acquired from the Minnesota Vikings in a trade for a second-round draft choice, Culpepper is said to be ahead of schedule for his recovery, but there are still doubts about when he will be completely rehabilitated from the severe injury suffered in October.
If Culpepper cannot open the season, Harrington would be the Dolphins' starter.
Harrington, 27, started 55 games for the Lions and posted a record of 18-37. He completed 986 of 1,802 passes for 10,242 yards, with 60 touchdown passes and 62 interceptions, for an efficiency rating of 68.1. Harrington started 11 games in 2005, was benched at one point in favor of Jeff Garcia, and then regained his starting job.
He reportedly asked Lions officials earlier in the spring, including Millen and first-year head coach Rod Marinelli, to either trade or release him. Detroit has signed a trio of veteran quarterbacks -- Jon Kitna, Josh McCown and Shaun King -- in the offseason. Kitna and McCown will compete for the starting job.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.