Former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker and Akron native James Harrison would welcome a chance to play for the Browns.
“Playing for the Browns would bring me back home,” Harrison said through his agent, Bill Parise. “It would be great.”
However, as of Sunday evening, Parise said he had not talked to the Browns about Harrison, a product of Coventry High School and Kent State University.
Harrison, a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All Pro selection, became a salary-cap casualty and was cut by the Steelers on Saturday. He may sign with a team at anytime because he has been released.
The 6-foot, 242-pound Harrison will turn 35 on May 4. The Browns are determined to avoid stopgap solutions, so they would probably only be interested in Harrison if they believe he has a few productive seasons left.
Harrison flirting with the idea of joining the Browns is intriguing for at least a couple obvious reasons.
The first is his status as public enemy No. 1 in Browns Town. In 2010, Harrison gave Browns wide receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi concussions with blows to the head in the same game. In 2011, Harrison gave Browns quarterback Colt McCoy a concussion with a vicious helmet-to-facemask hit that led to a huge controversy because McCoy re-entered the game after the team’s medical staff failed to test him for a concussion on the sideline.
The second is Harrison’s notable ties to the Browns’ new regime. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton coached the Steelers’ defensive backs from 2004-10, and he needs linebackers for the multi-front 3-4 scheme he’ll bring to Cleveland. Harrison had his best season in 2008, compiling career highs in tackles (101) and sacks (16) en route to being named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is certainly familiar with Harrison, too, because he bought a minority stake in the Steelers in 2008.
Harrison has had at least 10 sacks in three seasons (2008-10). He had six sacks this past season and nine in 2011. He was limited all of last season because of a knee injury, but he started the final 13 games after missing the first three.
It’s also worth noting that the Browns aren’t the only team with which Harrison’s camp is trying to drum up business.
Parise told the New Orleans Times-Picayune the Saints “would be a great fit.” He also told the Baltimore Sun the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens are “a contender and a class organization, so James would definitely be interested.”
Nickel in demand
The Browns have been in contact with the agent of Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, a league source told the Beacon Journal on Sunday. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Munnerlyn is set to hit the open market when free agency begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Not only are the Browns looking for a cornerback who can start opposite Joe Haden, but they also need a nickel corner after cutting Dimitri Patterson in December. Munnerlyn, 24, has excelled while covering slot receivers in the nickel role.
Last season, Munnerlyn started 11 of the 16 games in which he appeared and compiled 61 tackles, nine passes defensed and two interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns. In 2011, he started all 14 games in which he appeared.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski served as the offensive coordinator of the Panthers during the past two seasons, so he knows the 5-8, 190-pound Munnerlyn.
Last week, Munnerlyn told the Charlotte Observer he would like to re-sign with the Panthers, but he also left the door open for a departure.
“My heart’s in Carolina,” said Munnerlyn, a seventh-round pick (No. 216 overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft. “I want to stay in Carolina. But at the same time, it’s a business and it’s about being productive. I feel like this past season I had a good year and hopefully I can get a good contract from it.”
Four teams have talked to Munnerlyn’s agent, Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun and Scout.com reported.
Dr. Craig Brigham, a neck and spine specialist, send a memo to NFL teams refuting that Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones ever had a significant spinal-cord contusion, Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune and National Football Post reported.
Jones, a potential target of the Browns in next month’s draft, was diagnosed with spinals stenosis in 2009 after he suffered a neck injury while playing for Southern California. USC’s doctors would not clear him to return to football, so he transferred to Georgia and starred there for two seasons.
Jones said last month at the NFL Scouting Combine he has a narrowing between the C4 and C5 vertebrae in his neck.
“But most of the doctors checked me out and feel that I’m fine,” Jones said. “I don’t have any contusion or anything like that in it.”
According to Pompei’s report, Brigham concluded that Jones either had a very mild incident of spinal-cord concussion or a stinger that has long since resolved, and that if he suffered a similar injury, it wouldn’t end his career. Brigham also concluded, “Jarvis is cleared to play without restriction.”
Jones led the nation in sacks (14 ½), tackles for loss (24 ½) and forced fumbles (seven) last season. He believes he can play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme in the NFL, though he said at the combine he’s more comfortable in a 4-3.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said last month during a conference call that the Browns should target Jones with the sixth overall pick, provided he checks out medically. If the Browns don’t sign a premier pass rusher — like Paul Kruger of the Baltimore Ravens or Cliff Avril of the Detroit Lions — in free agency, they’ll be expected to target one in the draft, which runs April 25-27.
The Browns and Indianapolis Colts are expected to enter a bidding war for Kruger, the Baltimore Sun reported. One source predicted Kruger could command $10-$12 million a year, according to the report.
The Browns also have reached out to the agent of Ravens inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, a league source confirmed for the Beacon Journal. But the Ravens are expected to present a significant offer to Ellerbe before free agency officially kicks off Tuesday, the Baltimore Sun reported.
The Browns had a discussion with the agent of San Diego Chargers right guard Louis Vasquez, according to the Orange and Brown Report. The 6-4, 330-pound Vasquez started all 54 games in which he has appeared, including all 16 last season.
The Chargers drafted Vasquez in the third round (No. 78 overall) of the 2009 draft. He spent the past four seasons with Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who was the head coach of the Chargers.
The Browns could use a guard because they’re uncertain about the status of Jason Pinkston, whose 2012 season was shortened because of a blood clot in his lung.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.