Bengals sign former rival James Harrison
The news comes just two days after contract talks reportedly came to a halt, supposedly due to Harrison's unwillingness to lower his contract demands. After drawing very little interest on the market, it didn't take long for Harrison to accept a more reasonable price. News broke that the Bengals and Harrison reignited negotiations on Friday afternoon, and the news of an agreement broke just a few hours later.
Harrison hit free agency after his refusal to take a pay cut gave the Steelers no choice but to release him. He publicly stated several teams that he would "love to play for," but generated very little interest. The Ravens gave him a look, but jumped on the chance to sign Elvis Dumervil and brushed Harrison aside. The only other team known to have been interested in Harrison was the Bengals.
Harrison will bring a pass rush presence to the strong side linebacker spot that the Bengals severely lacked in 2012. No non-lineman registered more than two sacks for the Bengals last season. Though the 34-year-old Harrison (35 in May) is not quite what he used to be, he still is a menace when on the field, as he racked up 6.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, and 70 tackles in 13 games for the Steelers last season.
If you're surprised at how old Harrison is, it's likely because his career didn't really pick up until he was 29. After going undrafted out of Kent State in 2002, Harrison didn't start more than four games in a season until 2007. He registered 8.5 sacks that year, and turned into arguably the most feared defensive player in the league the following season. In 2008, Harrison piled up 16.0 sacks with seven forced fumbles and a safety in 15 games, earning himself Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Injuries and age have slowed Harrison down in recent years, but as I said before, he can still terrorize a quarterback when he's on the field.
It's a quality signing for a Cincinnati defense that was already among the league's toughest units. Harrison should bring some viciousness to one of the Bengals' biggest position needs, assuming he's able to stay healthy, which is by no means a guarantee.