Cleveland Browns: Harrison Crosses Picket Line, Needs to SIgn Tender and Stay

J GatskieCorrespondent IMay 28, 2010

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 04:  Jerome Harrison #35 of the Cleveland Browns runs the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during their game at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 4, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Browns 23-20 in overtime.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Jerome Harrison made a wise decision to brave the warm weather and sarcastic comments from his teammates when he decided to cross the imaginary picket line and report to the Cleveland Browns OTAs this week.

Harrison's chances to start in 2010 were starting to slip away daily. His leverage with regard to his contract negotiations was drying up quickly, and he had to make a rational decision swiftly.

Despite his monstrous end to the 2009 season, he had to realize he didn't have the starting job locked up by now. Every day he was absent, gave the prodigy from Tennessee, Montario Hardesty, more camera time and reps.

Behind Hardesty, the Browns have trade acquisition Peyton Hillis, second-year back Chris Jennings, and sophomore James Davis.

If Harrison wants to make better than tender money, he has to be the starter and have a better than average year in 2010.

Browns executive Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert are not going to reward him with a multi-million dollar a year extension based upon a half of a season's work.

Harrison has been in the league for four seasons, but last season marked his only real starting experience.

Aside from his 286-yard explosion against Kansas City, he rushed for 586 yards on 160 attempts for a measly 3.66 yard average on the year. Basically, he doesn't have the numbers to leverage the type of deal he is looking for.

By all accounts, second-round pick Montario Hardesty has looked good from every camera angle so far, and has been running with the first-team offense.

Peyton Hillis hasn't done anything wrong and made several nice catches this week. There has been almost no football news regarding either Jennings or Davis.

Harrison just doesn't have statistical leverage, or a guaranteed starting position to use in contract negotiations.

Coach Mangini, while not effusive with praise, was nonetheless glad to have Jerome back, saying, "I think it's good for everyone to be here because it's the second round of install and it helps the player and it helps us for when we go to camp. I'm glad Jerome is here, and I expect him to be here next week.''

If Harrison continues to show up and work hard during OTAs while the Browns' other RFAs continue to hold out, he could capitalize on the positive public image his presence would convey as he worked without a contract.

He would go from disgruntled and money-hungry to team-oriented and selfless.

Isn't perception a wonderful thing?

Harrison has made the right choice by coming to camp. Now he needs to continue to work hard toward winning the starting position and sign his tender.

There is nothing wrong with $1.759 Million. Considering he made approximately $540,000 in 2009, it's more than a million-dollar raise.

Harrison has already made the most difficult decision. He actually came to camp. It took a lot of self assurance to report without a new deal.

The easy part is staying and learning the new system. It's a lot harder on the psyche to be an outsider than to be part of a team.

The Browns are better off with Harrison in camp and he is better off being part of the team.