The Cincinnati Bengals made their biggest headline news during free agency when they reached a two-year agreement with free agent linebacker James Harrison. On Tuesday the team announced the acquisition, which means that Harrison signed his contract.
Harrison (6-0, 242; Kent State) is a 10th-year NFL player in 2013, having played all his previous seasons with Pittsburgh. He entered the league in 2002 as an undrafted free agent and saw his first significant playing time in 2004. He was a key player on the last two Steelers Super Bowl winners (2005 and 2008), and he was a starter in the Pro Bowl from the 2007 through 2011 seasons. He has twice been named first-team Associated Press All-Pro, a team that combines the best players in both the AFC and NFC.
“James has been a dominant player on a team with a history of dominant defense,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. “He has made a great number of game-deciding plays, and he brings us help in a position area we had planned to improve either through the draft or with a veteran signing. He will be a physical player against the run and will improve our pressure on the quarterback.”
Harrison made one of the most dramatic plays in Super Bowl history in the 2008 postseason, with a 100-yard interception return for a TD vs. Arizona. It stands as the longest gain on a scrimmage play in a Super Bowl, and it would not have led to points for Pittsburgh had Harrison not fought off would-be tacklers to reach the end zone, because the first-half clock expired during his return. The play put the Steelers ahead 17-7, and they went on to win 27-23.
Harrison’s streak of Pro Bowl selections ended in 2012, when he missed Pittsburgh’s first three games due to a knee injury, but he started Pittsburgh’s final 13 contests and tied for the team lead in sacks (6.0). He has 64.0 career sacks, 28 forced fumbles, five interceptions and seven fumble recoveries.
Harrison’s first-team AP All-Pro selections came in 2008 and 2010. Also in 2008, he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by Associated Press and Pro Football Weekly.