PITTSBURGH – James Harrison’s snarling tenacity made the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker one of the NFL’s most intimidating players for nearly a decade.
Big hits – some legal, some not so much – also turned the outspoken five-time Pro Bowler into focal point for a league-wide crackdown on helmet-to-helmet contact.
Harrison’s outlaw image made him beloved in Pittsburgh but reviled elsewhere. His onerous contract, however, no longer worked for a team with serious salary cap issues. The Steelers released the former defensive player of the year on Saturday when the two sides could not agree on a more cap-friendly deal.
It’s been a great run but all good things must come to a end, Harrison posted on his Twitter account Saturday afternoon. Thank you Steelers Nation I will miss you all!
Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert and Harrison’s agent Bill Parise had spent the last few days trying to iron out a new deal but couldn’t reach common ground. Harrison was entering the final two years of a $51 million extension he signed in 2009 and was scheduled to make $6.57 million in 2013.
Instead, Harrison – who turns 35 in May – will find himself looking for work for the first time since he became a fixture on the right side of Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense in 2006.
James has been an integral part of our success during his years in Pittsburgh and has helped us win two Lombardi trophies during that time, Colbert said in a statement. We appreciate all of his efforts and wish him the best.
Harrison is the first cap move by the Steelers this offseason as they try to get under the $123 million salary cap by Tuesday, when the new league year begins. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and linebacker Lawrence Timmons have restructured their contracts to help get Pittsburgh under the cap number, but Colbert told reporters after the Steelers finished a disappointing 8-8 in 2012 terminations would also be necessary.
Harrison helped the Steelers win their fifth Super Bowl in 2006 and was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, when he collected 16 sacks.
Bears’ Roach drawing interest
Bears free agent linebacker Nick Roach appears to be drawing interest from other teams. Roach’s agent Josh Wright said six teams had called Saturday afternoon.
Roach has mostly played strong-side linebacker during his six seasons but has also seen time in the middle.
Around the league
A source says Buffalo has reached an agreement to re-sign cornerback Leodis McKelvin to a four-year deal worth more than $20 million. Atlanta agreed to terms with safety William Moore, who will receive $14 million guaranteed in a new five-year contract. The maximum value of the deal is $32 million
Fullback Darrel Young and tight end Logan Paulsen agreed to three-year contracts to stay with Washington.
Linebacker Junior Galette has agreed to a three-year contract to remain with New Orleans. A source says San Diego agreed in principle to a four-year contract with kicker Nick Novak.
Arizona released receiver Early Doucet and gave a qualifying, second-round tender offer to quarterback Brian Hoyer. The Jets re-signed linebacker Josh Mauga to a one-year contract.