Saturday, March 7, 2009

Al Harris is staying with the Packers: Should he be?

Al Harris is returning to Green Bay for his sixth season with the Packers.

The news became official a few weeks ago when Packers GM Ted Thompson informed Harris that the Pack would pick up his $1.2 million roster bonus and play him in 2009.

The question is, should he be?

With the Packers moving away from Bob Sander's bump-and-run or bust defense, will Harris be able to change from the only way he knows how to play? I'm skeptical. There were times last season (mostly 3rd-and-longs) when Sanders actually called for zone coverage. It wasn't pretty.

Harris, for one, looked very confused at those times. He seemed to not know which way to turn, and a lot of opposing receivers found big openings between Harris and the safeties.

This resulted in too many first downs for opposing teams on 3rd-and-longs. The Packers' defense struggled with third downs plays all year, and this was one of the reasons.

With the Packer defense not being able to get off the field on third downs, they wore down towards the end of games and we all know the disastrous results. But back to Al Harris.

I'm not saying the defense's problems were his fault. But what I am saying is the times I saw Harris asked to play zone, he couldn't handle it. Line him up face to face with a receiver in man coverage, and he will do well.

When he has to think about more than the man in front of him, things start to fall apart.

Now it's certainly possible the new coaches can teach Harris how to play a different style, but with 11 years in the league—well, you know what they say about old dogs.

Midway through last season, Harris publicly wondered aloud whether the Packers intended to bring him back, assuming they’d begin a youth movement.

But after Harris returned from a career-threatening spleen injury and completed the season in a strong fashion, Thompson believes Harris still has a lot to contribute to the franchise:

“This is a guy that I don’t see a lot of drop-off,” Thompson said. “He’s still a good player and we think he’s going to be a good player again this year. We’re not having a big youth movement.”

That being said, wouldn't this have been the perfect time to trade him? He made his first Pro Bowl outright in 2007, and participated this year after other players dropped out. At age 34, his value is not going to go up next year.

If you believe that Tramon Williams did a very good job when Harris was hurt (as I do), why not consider trading Harris? I don't know what kind of value you could expect, but if we could get a late second rounder or early third, I would do it and use the pick to draft a cornerback.

Harris' contract will be up after the 2009 season, so there's a good chance he leaves via free agency and we get nothing for him. Does this make sense, or am I crazy?

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