The New England Patriots came up just short of their ultimate goal in 2017 as the team lost Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles. In order to get back onto the top of the NFL mountain, the team – on and off the field personnel – will have to quickly turn the page to get into a position to field the best possible team in 2018; one that will be able to once again compete for the world championship.
A big part of creating such a team is mastering the upcoming free agency. And if judged by the list of free agents to be, New England's front office will be busy over the next few weeks. Also over the next few weeks, we will take a look at those free agents to find out who might or might not get re-signed; and who should be a part of the 2018 Patriots. Today, we'll continue the series with edge defender James Harrison.
#93 DE James Harrison
2018 opening day age: 40
2017 playing time: 4 games (1 regular season + 3 playoffs); 12.4% defensive snaps, 4.4% special teams snaps
2017 statistics: 2.0 sacks, 5 quarterback hits, 1 hurry; 13 tackles
2017 cap number: $58,824
Like he did with all but one of his NFL seasons before, Harrison started his 2017 campaign on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 53-man roster after the team re-signed him to a two-year, $3.5 million contract in March. However, it became clear rather early during the season that the former defensive player of the year would serve as little more than a depth option behind Pittsburgh's younger outside linebackers.
It was therefore no surprise to see the Steelers release the veteran in December. It did not take long for him to find a new home, though, as the Patriots signed him just three days later. Harrison would go on to appear in his new team's remaining four games as a rotational option on the defensive edge. In this role, the 39-year old played 57.5% of defensive snaps and registered two sacks and 13 tackles.
Harrison saw the most playing time of the year in the Super Bowl and while he had his ups and downs proved that he is still capable of playing technically sound football at the highest level. As a result, it would not be a surprise to see New England offer the veteran a one-year contract to come back and bring some experience and stability to a defensive edge that features a lot of question marks behind Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise Jr..
Projection: Harrison re-signs with the Patriots on a one-year contract at the veteran's minimum of $1.015 million.