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Ex-NFL GM Rips Najee Harris, Says Steelers Made Right Call

Former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum does not think that Najee Harris is worth the near $7 million price his fifth year option would have cost.



Steelers RB Najee Harris
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris at practice on Dec. 1, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum does not believe that the Pittsburgh Steelers made a misstep in turning down Najee Harris’ fifth-year option. Instead, he praised them for it, thinking that Harris was not worth the nearly $7 million price tag that his fifth-year option would have cost the team.

“Najee Harris is a good player, but he’s not worth $7 million in fully guaranteed money,” he said on NFL Live. “They were able to get Jaylen Warren as an undrafted free agent.”

In 2023, Harris had the best season of his career in terms of yards per carry as he rushed 255 times for 1,035 yards — a 4.1 yards per carry average — and he scored eight touchdowns. Harris had rushed for 3.9 and 3.8 yards per carry in his first two seasons. In other words, Harris has become a dependable running back for Pittsburgh through sheer availability and some solid tape.

He had his most efficient season yet in 2023. Harris’ rushing yards of expectation, yards per carry, and broken tackles per carry were all career-high. There is a lot to signal that Najee Harris has some upside left in his game, and this should be the best offensive line he has played behind.

Harris is a solid player. I think there’s no doubting that, and his price tag on the fifth-year option would have made him just the 12th highest-paid running back in the NFL. But there’s opportunity cost there with a guy in Warren, who, on a per-touch basis, is more explosive and efficient. That does not mean Warren would do what he is doing now with the more significant workload, but his exceptional performance must be considered.

As it stands, the Harris fifth-year option is a tough decision. Harris did what he needed to do to earn it, but the circumstances around him are what created this storm. And hey, there are bright sides for Harris. He came into the NFL as an older running back and hit the opening market a year earlier at 27 years old.