FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots bring a lot of free agents to town for visits and workouts, as part of keeping emergency lists updated. So their visit Tuesday with outside linebacker James Harrison was hardly a surprise.
But this was more significant because the position Harrison plays is arguably the team’s greatest need.
The team’s potential interest in Harrison was foreshadowed Saturday and was timely to revisit in the wake of ESPN’s Field Yates confirming his presence in town Tuesday. The Patriots have a need, Harrison has played in big games, and there are big games ahead — possibly against Harrison’s former team, the Steelers.
That is part of what makes this intriguing.
Whereas Harrison has played just 40 snaps this season for the Steelers, who might have considered re-signing him for insurance, Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia can sell him that New England is a better fit for him this year because they have a larger role to offer.
Outside of third-year man Trey Flowers, the Patriots are thin and inexperienced on the edge. It led to them most recently using 235-pound linebacker Marquis Flowers at the end of the line in their base defense. Flowers hung in admirably, but can that type of situation sustain?
The Patriots know Harrison from having played many games against him over the years, but Belichick, Patricia & Co., haven’t had much personal background with him. On Tuesday, they had a chance to explore that side of things.
Now that they have, and intend to sign him, let the fun begin.