In response to an article on Yahoo by Chris Roling talking about how James Harrison is the most overrated player on the Cincinnati Bengals, I wanted to counter his points with some thoughts of my own. Chris begins by talking about how the hype of Harrison in stripes is reaching an unreasonable level. I don't know that I share the same opinion. I don't think any reasonable Bengal fan thinks that Harrison is going to put up record numbers at this point in his career. However, I do think most fans are excited about the attitude Harrison brings to the team and what he can offer in place of Manny Lawson.
On to Chris's first point:
Age and Health
James Harrison is already 35 years old. There's a notion in the NFL among fans and media alike that the ripe age of 30 is usually when a decline begins. That's particularly the case with running backs, but it has its merits with linebackers as well.
Sure, as players get older their play on the field declines. Some players, however, break the mold for the magical 30 year old ceiling. Lets take Harrison and look at his post 30 stats. At the age of 31 Harrison was able to amass 60 tackles, 10 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 2 passes defensed. At 32 he offered 70 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and 6 forced fumbles. Yeah, in the last two years there has been a decline in his numbers, but what is interesting about that is he was also playing behind a mediocre defensive line. Of the three down lineman for the Steelers in 2011, only 1 had a qb sack credited to them. Harrison actually led the team with 9 sacks that season. When the opposing offense is able to key in on a particular pass rusher, the stats are going to be affected.
In the Bengals defense, Harrison is going to have more freedom to come from the edge or drop back in coverage. He will not be expected to notch double digit sack totals. I am more excited about how he is going to be able to contain the run, something the Bengals need to do a better job of.
Chris then goes on to talk about Harrison's role with the team:
Role and Impact
It's hard to tell if Harrison will have a bigger impact than Lawson at this point. The possibility is good, but he is in an unfamiliar defense past his prime. His signing could represent more bark than bite.
To argue whether Harrison will have more of an impact than Manny Lawson is just plain silly. At no time in his career has Lawson been an intimidating anchor of the defense. Lawson's best season is statistically worse than Harrison's worst season as a starter.
Which brings me to:
Bargain Bin Free Agent
Last but not least, there's a reason Harrison was shunned by his former team and a variety of others on the free-agent market.
Harrison was not shunned by his former team in any sense. He was offered a deal and actually turned it down to accept less from the Bengals. If there was any shunning it would be from the Harrison camp to the Steelers. Harrison has admitted that he wants to stick it to the Steelers and it motivated him to stay in the division.
It is also not fair to call him a bargain bin free agent. If anything, the bargain is in what you were able to sign that caliber of a guy for. The point of free agency is to improve the team by improving upon certain positions. In signing Harrison to replace Lawson, the Bengals have instantly improved that position. Filling a need with a one time defensive player of the year is a good way to ensure improved play at a position. Adding the motivation of the player and the stats he is still putting up, is icing on the cake. In the end, only one stat matters each week and that is getting the W. I believe with Harrison, the Bengals have put themselves in a better position to do that.