One of the many surprise twists of the 2017 NFL season was the curious case of 39-year-old James Harrison. Harrison began his season with the Steelers, as he has done in all but one of his 15 seasons in the NFL. However, Harrison was hardly used as he totaled just over 30 snaps with the Steelers through 15 games. The Steelers’ franchise leader in sacks was then unceremoniously let go at the very end of the year and was claimed by none of the other 31 teams.
Then, facing a career crossroad, Harrison received a call from Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
The Patriots, gearing up for the playoff run, desperately needed help setting the edge on defense. Harrison more than helped to fill that void during the final four games of the season. In his brief stint with the Patriots, he more than proved he still could play at his advanced age. Harrison was consistently disruptive and played a significant role all the way through the Super Bowl. In his lone regular season game, Harrison racked up three tackles and two sacks. In three postseason games, he was credited with seven tackles in two starts. Unfortunately, the Patriots fell just short of hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
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Following the loss, Harrison expressed a desire to play his age-40 season and even perhaps another year after the that. For the Patriots, they have a number of issues to address on the defensive side of the ball, including within their front seven. That makes re-signing Harrison a no-brainer for the Patriots.
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The Patriots will still have to address the depth issues they face in the front seven. Current placeholders, such as Alan Branch, have likely played their last game in a Patriots uniform. The return of Dont’a Hightower will give the defense a boost, however, at this point, making it through a full season is questionable for the occasionally-stud linebacker. And then, of course, the Patriots will likely address the position through the draft to add to their already young front seven. This makes Harrison’s veteran presence even more important for a team whose championship window is still wide open.
On his way out of Pittsburgh, he was portrayed as a less than stellar teammate. Accusations flew from former teammates as he joined the “rival” Patriots. By all accounts, from the moment he arrived in Foxborough, he was an ideal Patriot. A workout-warrior, there is no doubt he will be physically prepared for the 2018 season. Harrison playing that season in the Patriots blue is a win-win scenario for both parties.