BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots are adding another veteran presence to their defense ahead of the final week of the regular season.
After spending his Tuesday afternoon in Foxboro meeting with the team, veteran linebacker James Harrison has signed with the Patriots. ESPN’s Field Yates was first to report Harrison’s intentions to sign with New England.
Harrison, 39, was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday and went unclaimed on waivers. Pittsburgh’s all time sack leader, he played just 40 defensive snaps this season.
While it’s worth wondering what Harrison has left in the tank, the Patriots could certainly use another body on defense with several players dinged up. New England has Trey Flowers, rookie Deatrich Wise and Eric Lee at the top of their depth chart at defensive end, with linebackers Kyle Van Noy (who has missed the last three games with a calf injury) and Marquis Flowers filling in along the edge depending on the Patriots’ defensive set. Trey Flowers is their best player on the line and Marquis Flowers played great in Sunday’s win over the Bills in Van Noy’s absence, leading the team with 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks, but the Pats could use more depth at linebacker and along the edge without Dont’a Hightower. Veteran David Harris saw an uptick in playing time when Hightower was lost for the year in Week 7, but did not play on Sunday despite being on New England’s active roster.
Even in the twilight of his career (he joked that he’s happy to have a teammate older than him now in Tom Brady), Harrison should be able to add to the New England pass rush. The veteran has 82.5 career sacks, the eighth-most among active players, and recorded five sacks to lead the Steelers last season. The five-time Pro Bowler recorded his only sack of the 2017 season back in Week 6 in a Pittsburgh win in Kansas City.
The Patriots and Steelers are currently vying for the top seed in the AFC heading into the final week of the regular season.