The Al Harris situation is ridiculous and in some ways sad. He is operating under a contract that his agent negotiated, and Harris approved and signed in September of 2004.
Let me repeat that, his agent negotiated it, Harris approved it and he signed it 22 months ago.
The contract is for $18 million over five years, including a $5.25 million signing bonus. Now, apparently, that is not enough.
I understand that Woodson is making more and so is Kampman. Pickett might be also. A lot of football players make more than Harris. Most make a great deal less. Harris is operating under the scarcity mentality. He sees others getting more and instead of seeing this as a good thing, and he views it as a negative.
He does not see that having Woodson on the other side of the field will help him, provided Woodson returns to his early-career form. Opposing teams will now have two good corners to face. In past years, teams routinely operated away from Harris's side.
That will not be the case this season, assuming Woodson stays healthy and Harris shows up. With Kampman rushing the passer, QBs will be under greater pressure. Harris should have more chances to make plays. Improving Green Bay's defense takes talent and talent costs money but it mainly benefits the guys on the field, one of which is Harris. That is the abundance mentality. If we all work together, like a team, this team will only get better and that helps everyone out. A rising tide raises all boats.
Most teams overpay for free agents and in some cases overpay to keep free agents. Harris could have auctioned his services on the open market hoping for a bigger payday. He did not do so, probably because he felt the Packers' deal was the best one available at the time. Maybe he was wrong, but whose fault is that?
Some folks have argued that Harris should shut his mouth, show up for camp, play as hard as he can and he will be rewarded. Harris obviously sees the same thing that the Packers do. He is 32 years old and his 'upside' is limited. Odds are he will not get a huge payday in the future. The market for 30-plus defensive backs is limited, at best. Sounds harsh, but it is reality.
Regrettably, he should have thought of that when he signed on the line that is dotted back in 2004. All NFL contracts are outdated the moment they are signed. Someone always gets more tomorrow. Wonder if he or his agent ever tried to insert a renegotiation clause in the agreement, and whether or not the Packers would okay or veto the idea?
If Al were to get a new deal today, will he be whining in 22 months when Nick Barnett and Nick Collins get new deals? When and where does it stop? Also, should his play deteriorate this year, is he going to be willing to offer the Packers a give-back? I doubt it.
The Packers are partly to blame. They caved in to Mike McKenzie and shipped him off to New Orleans. They traded the disgruntled Javon Walker to Denver. The perception in the Harris camp is, quite possibly, that whining worked for both of these guys, so it should work for Al. Show me how I will be judged and I will perform. The Packers have a history of bowing to pressure and sending their problems somewhere else. Bottom line: Harris has a contract and he should honor it. If he fails to show for camp, fine him and wait it out.
Harris has been a good player for this team and deserves to be paid a premium, but that is reflective in the contract he agreed to two years back.
After languishing in Philadelphia as the nickel back, the Packers gave him a chance to perform and he has exceeded everyone's expectations. He has been rewarded for his accomplishments.
Sitting out at this juncture does Harris more harm than good. Besides, he might want to think about what it means to play a team sport.
Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.