Harrison has been a disappointment for the Browns this season, after he broke out for 561 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns in the final three games of 2009. So far this year, he has only amassed 91 yards in four games played, with an embarrassingly low 2.9 YPC average.
Likewise, Bell has not lived up to expectations in Philadelphia. He was brought in during the off-season to be a bigger-back complement to the speedy LeSean McCoy. Bell has been a non-factor for the Eagles, only carrying the ball 16 times this season after leading the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints with 172 carries last year.
While unexpected, this move makes sense for both teams. The Eagles have a quality starter in McCoy and, in Harrison, have found a versatile back who provides depth at the position. Harrison's speed and agility fit the Eagles' system well and he should be a better fit than Bell.
With starter Peyton Hillis nursing a thigh injury and Harrison proving ineffective, the Browns are in desperate need of depth at the position. At 6'0", 225lbs, Bell is a big back who should be able to get the tough yards through the interior of Cleveland's big offensive line. Bell could even see significant time in this week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hillis says that he plans to play, but with the injury, it is unclear how effective he can be. The Browns appear set to start rookie Quarterback Colt McCoy against Pittsburgh and a strong running game would go a long way toward keeping him upright.
Since coming to Cleveland, team president Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert have attempted to bring in fresh talent, as quickly as possible, for the rebuilding Browns. Heckert is the former Eagles GM and clearly has maintained a good relationship with his former team. The Browns traded with Philadelphia to acquire CB Sheldon Brown and LB Chris Gocong in the off-season, and have now added Bell.
The move getting Harrison could also open up playing time for second-year running back James Davis. The former Clemson star spent most of last season on injured reserve and has received few opportunities this year.
Rookie running back, Montario Hardesty, was placed on injured reserve before the 2010 season started. He is expected to be ready to play in 2011. That, combined with the emergence of Hillis and the fact that Harrison has been unhappy playing on his RFA tendered contract, likely made him expendable moving forward.