The New York Jets made a somewhat shocking decision today to release veteran inside linebacker David Harris. Initial reaction below
1 – The timing of this release is surprising as the Jets didn’t usher Harris out earlier in the offseason with the rest of their veteran purge (Brandon Marshall, Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis). For some reason they held on to him into OTAs, while passing on the opportunity to draft an inside linebacker or sign low cost, quality replacements like Zach Brown and Gerald Hodges after failing to land Dont’a Hightower. Only days after Darron Lee got into a public altercation which could come with a penalty from the league, the Jets decided to cut his veteran running mate.
2 – The thought that Demario Davis is a capable replacement for Harris is laughable, as any Jets fan who paid attention in 2014 and 2015 should know. Davis is collecting 3.2 million against the cap this year, more than Brown and Hodges, who are both younger and better players. Davis is not a good football player and that is going to make Lee’s second season that much more difficult.
3 – The timing severely undercuts any potential market for Harris and his treatment by the organizaiton is the type of thing that will not go unnoticed in the locker room. Releasing Harris? Completely understandable. Waiting until June 6th? Less so. The Jets may save a few million dollars but what exactly are they doing with that money right now in June? They would have recouped the money regardless after the season when Harris’ contract was up.
4 – When moves like this happen many fans default to “the Jets have a master, coordinated plan” and this is just another component of it. This should not be the assumption. The team feels more like they are careening in-between random moves and decisions right now. If they are going into a full rebuild/tank season, they cut Harris earlier in the offseason and don’t make an aggressive failed pursuit of Hightower and Tony Jefferson. They also don’t spend 6 million dollars on Josh McCown to start at quarterback for them and keep Matt Forte around. When you go 5-11 and have missed the playoffs six years in a row, you do not get the benefit of the doubt.
5 – A few words on Harris, who will be a Ring of Honor player for the team and was the last remaining artifact of Eric Mangini’s tenure here. Harris was the last Jets second round pick to turn into anything positive. Everybody immediately thought he was a steal in the second round and he lived up to the hype, becoming a centerpiece for a four year stretch of very good to great defenses in 2008-2011. Harris was steadily productive, rock solid in the run and screen game, while being a leader for the team throughout his entire time in New York. He was still the team’s best linebacker as of today, despite slowing down substantially in recent years which is a credit to him and also part of the reason this front office doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt on any decision right now.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com