The New England Patriots are confirming that two-time Pro Bowl free agent safety Rodney Harrison, 31, has signed with the club a day after it inked prize linebacker Rosevelt Colvin. The deal was actually consummated late last night.
The Denver Post's Adam Schefter has the story in this morning's paper and quoted Harrison from The San Diego Union-Tribune. "I just wanted a fresh start," Harrison said. "I like Bill Belichick, the way his defensive mind works. I'm excited about being able to play in a great secondary with [Lawyer] Milloy and [Ty] Law."
After landing cornerback Tyrone Poole last week to either compete for a starting job or, at the very least, to improve the Patriots nickel back position, the team went ahead on defense this week as well, landing Colvin and now Harrison, who played his entire career in San Diego.
The nine-year veteran has 759 career tackles to go with 26 interceptions, 21.5 sacks, 83 passes defensed, eight forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Last season, he finished second on the Chargers with 88 tackles along with two interceptions, two forced fumbles and seven passes defensed.
In addition to his two Pro Bowl selections (1998 and 2001), Harrison was named the Chargers Defensive Player of the Year four times. His best season statistically came in 2000 when he had 127 tackles, six interceptions, six sacks, 17 passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Harrison was plagued by a groin injury last season and missed two games, but told the Union-Tribune's Jim Trotter that he is fully recovered. He also told that paper that he is taking Yoga classes and has lost 12 pounds to increase his quickness and flexibility.
Harrison was originally a fifth-round pick out of Western Illinois. He was released by San Diego to free up cap space before the start of free agency this year.
The Harrison signing gives the Patriots some flexibility with free agent safety Tebucky Jones, who currently wears the team's "franchise" tag. The Patriots could remove the tag and allow Jones to become a free agent, which would free up the $3.043 million in cap dollars committed to Jones as the "franchise" player. The Harrison signing also gives the Patriots some wiggle room in trading Jones. To do that, the club would allow Jones' agent, Gary Wichard, to negotiate a long-term contract with a club that has agreed to trade terms with the Patriots.
The Patriots also still hold the rights to Victor Green in a sense. Green has an individually negotiated right of first refusal in his contract, meaning the Patriots have the right to match any offer he receives, although they would not receive compensation if they chose not to match.