ALLEN PARK - Are the Lions about to dump Joey Harrington?
Rumors swirled Wednesday that Harrington was on his way out and the Lions were interested in signing Arizona free agent quarterback Josh McCown as their quarterback of the future.
Adam Schefter of the NFL Network has consistently stated that Harrington has no future in Detroit. While Schefter was apparently wrong about the Lions interest in Brees, he reported yesterday that even after signing quarterback Jon Kitna, they continued to talk to free agent quarterback Josh McCown.
On Around the NFL Schefter stated regarding the Lions, "they start their offseason mandatory workouts on Monday. Joey Harrington is scheduled to come back from Thailand on Sunday. He's expected to be in attendance on Monday. How long he will remain a part of the Lions' roster throughout the offseason is uncertain, because basically the Lions have sent a clear message that they are interested in other quarterbacks."
Harrington was in Allen Park most of last week working out with coach Mike Martz in a seven-day quarterbacks school, but rumors and unsubstantiated reports began to fly that Martz and Harrington were not getting along well. Apparently, Detroit is still talking to McCown, formerly of Arizona, and have tendered an offer. If so, that is not good news for Harrington.
A NFL source told Scout.com that the Lions were very interested in Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler and would select him with their first round pick if he was available. According to the report, Detroit would then Culter to learn the Martz offense with Kitna as the starter before turning the reigns over to him in a season or two.
Another rumor had Harrington being traded to the New York Jets along with Detroit's first round pick for defensive end John Abraham and the Jets second round pick. Booth Newspaper reporter Tom Kowalski suggested that Harrington was likely devastated by new offensive coodinator Mike Martz's statement that he would need to relearn the quarterback position. Booth Newspaper's online Lions section went as far as to state "Harrington likely gone" as the site's headline.
Here's what we know:
Harrington has a career 68.1 passer rating and a 16-48 won-loss record as the Lions starting quarterback. He is scheduled to collect a roster bonus on June 15 of $4 million. Consider that the Philadelphia Eagles outright released Terrell Owens yesterday to avoid paying a $5 million roster bonus that came due today.
Harrington also will collect about $4.5 million in base salary and is pro-rated signing bonus accounts for another $2 million in cap space. That means Harrington account for approximately $10 million in salary cap room or about 11% of the Lions total cap budget. The fifth-year signal caller from Oregon likely knows that if he asks for his outright release, Detroit doesn't owe him a dime and he is unlikely to make even half of what he's making right now.
That doesn't add up to a player being so discouraged that he doesn't want to be in Detroit. What it adds up to is a player being pushed out the door by a club that doesn't believe in his ability to win at the NFL level.
Detroit does have the option of releasing Harrington immediately and recouping about $10 million of salary cap space. A new provision in the collective bargaining agreement allows a team to release a player and not take the accelerated portion of his signing bonus hit the salary cap until the following season.
If Detroit were to make this move, they would have a windfall to sign several other players rumored to be on their radar screen, including former 49ers linebacker and Michigan State standout Julian Peterson. Detroit is rumored to have offered Peterson a five-year, $32 million contract in response to Cleveland offering a five-year $30 million deal.
Another rumor that Detroit agreed to terms with former Packers reserve tackle Kevin Barry, a player they contacted on the first day of free agency, turned out to be false. Barry agreed on a new deal with the Green Bay Packers.