Thirteen-year veteran strong safety Rodney Harrison, still regarded as the heart of the New England secondary but a defender whose productivity has diminished the past two seasons because of injuries, has restructured his contract.
New England Patriots
In the reworked contract, first reported by the Boston Globe and then confirmed through NFL sources and league salary documents, Harrison reduced his base salary for 2007 from a scheduled $2.7 million to $2 million. The adjustment cuts Harrison's 2007 salary cap charge by $700,000, to $2.7 million.
Harrison can earn back an additional $200,000 through incentives. The 2008 portion of his contract, in which his base salary is $3 million, was not affected by the restructuring.
Since the Patriots still have about $8.4 million in available cap funds, and more than sufficient money to sign their draft choices, the restructuring was not necessary to carve out more spending room. Instead, the move should be considered a reflection that Harrison is in the twilight of a celebrated career.
While still a key member of the New England defense, and projected as a starter again this season, Harrison, 34, has appeared in only 13 games over the past two seasons. In 2005, he suffered a catastrophic left knee injury, tearing three of four ligaments, and played in just three contests. Last season, Harrison played in 10 games and missed time with a fractured scapula and a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Long known as one of the league's fiercest hitters, and often fined by the NFL for his aggressive style, Harrison appeared to be healthy again during New England's early June minicamp. If he can avoid injuries in 2007, and play the entire schedule, it will mean a big lift for a Patriots' secondary unit that has been decimated each of the past three years.
A two-time Pro Bowl performer, Harrison signed with the Patriots as a free agent in 2003, after being released by San Diego, where he played the first nine seasons of his career.
He has appeared in 168 games and has 1,113 tackles, 32 interceptions, 73 passes defensed, 28½ sacks, 14 forced fumbles and six recoveries.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com