There has been a theme this offseason with the New York Jets: Shedding skin.
The latest veteran to be shown the door is linebacker David Harris, who had been the longest-tenured Jet. He was released on Tuesday, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Unlike many of the Jets’ big-name departures — such as Brandon Marshall, Geno Smith, Darrelle Revis and Calvin Pryor — Harris was still regarded by some as a glue guy who helped keep the locker room in check and set a tone for the younger players. Of course, the same could have been said for center Nick Mangold, also among the vets who were shown the door since the end of last season.
But the Harris move comes as a surprise in many ways, even with him due to make $6.5 million this season. Head coach Todd Bowles said the team tried to get Harris to accept a paycut to stay but when asked why the Jets couldn’t keep him, given that they had ample salary-cap space, Bowles had no answer.
“That’s a good question,” Bowles said.
Harris’ agents, Brian Mackler and Jim Ivler of Sportstars, were not pleased with the development. They issued a very pointed statement against the Jets, via NFL.com: “Very disappointed in the timing of this event and the decision. The Jets could’ve done this prior to free agency instead of waiting three months, especially for a player who has exhibited nothing but loyalty and class for 10 years.”
Over that time, Harris collected 1,088 tackles, 35.5 sacks, six interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. Although he was slowed a bit by a hamstring injury last season, Harris missed only one game — his first missed contest since 2008, his second season in the NFL as a second-round pick out of Michigan. Harris led the Jets in tackles last season but failed to record an interception (he hasn’t had one since 2011) or a forced fumble and had only 0.5 sacks.
He was perhaps the one true middle linebacker on the roster currently, although 2016 first-round pick Darron Lee and recently re-acquired Demario Davis (traded for Pryor) possibly could fill that role inside. Lee recently was seen being dragged away from an altercation at a music festival by teammate Leonard Williams, although no one was reported as hurt during the incident and no arrests were made.
Harris, 33, had been a quiet leader on the Jets. Who fills that void now? The oldest player on the team is a new arrival, 37-year-old QB Josh McCown, and the longest-tenured Jet — and the only remaining member of the team’s last playoff appearance, in 2010 — is long snapper Tanner Purdum. Although Harris has slowed down after a decade of collisions at the rough-and-tumble position, he had been viewed as a key member amid all the personnel turnover.
That’s clearly no longer the case. Expect Harris to get work for a team that could use help at middle linebacker — perhaps the Oakland Raiders? Other teams that potentially could be interested include the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, but there should be multiple suitors for his services, even as he approaches the twilight of what has been a terrific career.
Meanwhile, the young Jets have another big void to fill. Is Williams the team’s next defensive leader? Can Lee rise up and improve? The questions keep piling up.
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