Steelers GM Omar Khan Addresses Fifth-Year Option Decision On RB Najee Harris

The Steelers elected not to pick up Najee Harris‘ fifth-year option this offseason, leaving him on track for free agency in 2025. Pittsburgh’s lead back thus faces an uncertain future, but the door is open to an agreement keeping him in Pittsburgh beyond the coming campaign.

Harris would have been due $6.79MM in 2025 had the option been exercised, something the Steelers were once expected to do. Instead, his play this year will go a long way in determining his value on the open market. When speaking about the decision, general manager Omar Khan confirmed the Alabama product could still find himself in the team’s plans.

“It was a business decision that we had to make,” Khan said during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan (h/t “But Najee’s awesome to have around here. Love Najee as a player and a person. Just because we didn’t pick it up doesn’t exclude us from doing something with Najee long term… We just felt right now that was the right decision for everyone. I love Najee. I’d love to have him here long term.”

The second-year general manager noted last summer that the nature of the modern quarterback market has a dramatic effect on roster-building at other positions. QB prices continue to rise, and running backs are prime candidates to be limited to rookie contract investments from a team perspective. That is the case for both Harris and Jaylen Warren at the moment, and the latter has proven to be an efficient backfield option in two years to date (5.1 yards per carry average vs. Harris’ 3.9).

Pittsburgh has a rather cost-effective QB room for at least one year, but new deals will be needed to keep Russell Wilson and/or Justin Fields in place for 2025 and beyond. Neither passer should be expected to approach the top of the position’s market on a Steelers re-up, but devoting additional cap resources to one or both would limit the funds available to retaining Harris. Running backs in general have struggled to land lucrative multi-year deals in recent years, and it would be interesting to see if team and player pursued a short-term agreement of some kind down the road.

A Harris re-signing would not come as a complete surprise, and Khan’s remarks confirm it will at least be considered. Plenty is still to be determined, of course, and how the Steelers value the running back position with Khan at the helm will be worth watching closely as the 2024 season unfolds leading into a potential Harris departure.

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