Jets Release David Harris

The Jets cut veteran linebacker David Harris today, just a few days after finalizing a trade to bring Demario Davis in from Cleveland. The Jets will save $6.5 million with the release which is money that the team will likely be banking for 2018 as the full rebuilding of the team continues. The cutting of Harris isn’t surprising but the timing of it I think is really questionable. While the NFL can be very cutthroat there really should be some level of professional courtesy given to players like Harris and this is two times in two years the Jets have done such a thing.

Anyone who is a fan of the Jets knows that Harris has been on the decline for some time. For those who follow my writing on the Jets they know that I have been as down on Harris, especially at his salary level, as anyone. Harris is a throwback kind of player that for the last four or five years has been a liability more often than not with the league going wider and wider in formations with more of a focus on passing rather than running the ball. When the Jets re-signed Harris in 2015 to a $7.1 million contract with $15 million guaranteed I was pretty stunned. It was one of the most generous contracts in the NFL. So I certainly won’t argue any football reasons that Harris should not have been cut.

But what changed between March and June 6 to cause this to happen now?  In the last few years Harris hasn’t really changed. He’s been no better or worse than he was back in 2013 or 2014. He was tasked with being the leader of the defense and the coaching staff clearly liked him in the role of “on field coach”.  He was again talked up this offseason as the integral part of Todd Bowles defense because he can get everyone in the right position.

Sure the team traded for Davis, but Davis is just a guy. This isn’t like the Jets out of nowhere traded for Luke Kuechly. This is a player not wanted by the Browns. The Jets let him walk last year rather than using him in a 50-50 role with Harris, which probably would have made the most sense for the team. There were plenty of free agents this year that were as good as Davis.  The Jets just as easily could have signed a player in March to replace Harris. There is no post June 1 benefit for cutting Harris now the way there was for the Chiefs with Maclin so its not like they needed to wait either.

The whole situation seems eerily similar to what the team did with D’Brickashaw Ferguson last season. Ferguson was strung along as a member of the team until after free agency was over at which point the Jets approached him for a pay cut. He retired instead. That was a situation, just like this one, that should have been resolved in March, giving the player an opportunity to find a job. For guys that have been with the team a decade and been a good soldier you really do owe them that.

After the departure of Nick Mangold this offseason, Harris was the last link to the decent playoff teams of the Jets.  Harris, along with Darrelle Revis, Mangold, and Ferguson were considered the core of a team that had a very successful run (by Jets standards at least) for a number of years.

I’d actually be curious to see how younger fans of the Jets react to his departure. As a long time Jets fan I’ve seen some really low lows with this team and this current stretch since 2012 is about as bad as any period I can really remember other than the two Kotite years. But if you are a younger fans whose first real experience with the Jets began anytime from 98-10 you never got to really experience the worst of the worst.

The Jets were, for the most part, decent and at times pretty good during that time frame, contending for the playoffs most seasons.  The last few years have basically been an initiation for those younger fans into true Jets fandom of disappointments and Harris is the last man standing from the good period. I could see him being held in pretty high regard by that younger group because he was a big part of the good that seems like decades ago.

The move also continues a bad path for the front office which just sends off this vibe that everything is seat of your pants decision making. Late decisions on Muhammad Wilkerson and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Desperately trying to trade Sheldon Richardson then pulling back on that. The late move on Ferguson. This one now. Successful teams have a vision set before March and are able to adjust on the fly if something great shows up and helps them out. The Jets make it up as they go along.

Despite the lip service being given by the head coach that this is a competitive team the Jets have clearly gone into rebuild mode, more or less going back to the first John Idzik season. If there is a method to their madness maybe it is that the Jets avoided the focus that would have come had they dismantled the team completely in February by doing it piece by piece later on.  That would explain the strange contract for Josh McCown, who really has no place on a team.

Going into the offseason I suggested that the team would release Mangold, Revis, Harris, Brandon Marshall, Ryan Clady, Marcus Gilchrist, Buster Skrine, Eric Decker, and Buster Skrine. That would have gutted the entire team and created a ton of cap room which would not have been advisable to spend, but would have looked bad for the Jets if they did not spend it. They waited until after the draft to cut Gilchrist, when they drafted two safeties, and now Harris in June. If I were Decker or Skrine, who would save the team over $13 million combined, I’d be pretty worried. The other veteran with any appreciable savings is Steve McLendon at under $3 million.

The Jets now have around $16 million in cap room and if they released the other two to get .to $29 million they would be around 6th in the NFL. Next year the Jets project to be third in the NFL in cap room with about $60 million to spend.  That would effectively put them right back in the same position where they were when Maccagnan was hired in 2015.

Harris’ release will also mark the end of most of Maccagnan’s big moves that won him praise just two years ago. That year, which saw the Jets go a surprising 10-6, saw the Jets sign or trade for Harris, Revis, Marshall, Fitzpatrick, Antonio Cromartie, Gilchrist, Skrine, and James Carpenter.  The first six names are already gone and Skrine leaving would be no surprise. Last year the Jets made moves to bring in Matt Forte, Ryan Clady, and McLendon, while also re-signing Wilkerson and Fitzpartick and letting Damon Harrison walk in free agency. This year has been quieter with signings of Kelvin Beachum, Morris Claiborne, and McCown while re-upping Brian Winters.

It’s hard to say if Todd Bowles is or is not part of this process and on board with the decision making going on. Right now his position seems similar to that of Rex Ryan in which Ryan seemed destined to be a fall guy for Idzik during a gutting of the team except Idzik put himself in the crosshairs which saw both get fired. Bowles has to put a happy face on it but it seems he needs a miracle to save his job.

From a contractual standpoint the cut of Harris (and to a lesser extent Jeremy Maclin) are a good lesson in optimizing contract structure rather than just contract value. If these contracts had roster bonuses due in March in them their teams would have been forced to make a move in March rather than waiting until June. There are some agents who are very good at this as you will see in many of their clients contracts 4th and 5th year offseason bonuses. Those are not an accident and agents should be paying attention to that.

  • McGeorge

    1) I think Maccagnan is a slime bag. Its how he deals with the players I don’t like.

    2) Is Woody Johnson that stupid (probably) that he would only blame Bowels and not also blame Maccagnan?

    I pray they both get fired after 2017, and that the Jets can somehow salvage the #1 pick. I’d feel MUCH better if Petty and Hackenberg started all the games. McCown may win a meaningless game or two and cost the Jets the #1 pick.
    Tanking has to come from Woody directly to Bowels.

    • David Kubik

      I like Bowles.. maybe he is not cut out to be a head coach. I say fire Maccagnan and let the new GM decide. I agree with statement #1. He and Harris had a handshake deal. That should be honored.

      • McGeorge

        As a person Bowles seems fine. I don’t recall him ever saying or doing anything I didn’t like. I don’t think he’s a good HC.

        • David Kubik

          I see what you’re saying, but at this point he’s been handed a pretty bad deck by maccagnan tho.

  • LM

    There goes the veteran bridges. The team just went from a potential upside of winning maybe 6 games to winning only 1 or 2 next season. There is nothing wrong with going with a youth movement but the timing and execution of these moves is very suspect. As for Bowles and Maccagnan, unless Woody and those two guys have an unwritten understanding that this is all meant to be a building year. It’s hard for me to believe that both will be back in 2018. If the Jets believe in Hackenberg or Petty, They just pulled the plug out from both of them. They would have benefitted from Decker’s presence and if Bowles is gone, that means that The Jets will be scrapping the entire coaching staff. So just 1 year of mentoring by John Morton and Jeremy Bates. The young signal callers would have to start all over again, that’s if they are even on the roster in 2018.

    • McGeorge

      1 – I think Woody is on board with this, based on his comments

      2 – Lets say Woody fires Macc and Bwels after a 2-14 seson. Good luck getting nayone good. The Jets will be in a similar position to San Fran where they had to give out very long and expensive contracts. Woody doesn’t want to do that. Besides, how would a new coach do better with this roster than a bad coach, go 3-13 instead of 1-15?

      I dislike Macc and Bowels but it makes sense to keep them after a disastrous 2017. It will make it easier to get replacements after 2018 if the Jets don’t vastly improve, because new coaches and GMs will see that M&B got 4 years.

  • Werner

    I think Harris got already paid for the short term like he should have been paid doing a year or two more. Such behavior should cost the Jets Money and attractive Free Agent hirings in the future, if their agents pay attention to such approach. On the plus side it seems rather clear to suck this year in full, going to the top three picks, as to get the choice of the seemingly strong QB Draft Class of next year. Alternatively Hackenberg could always be the 2nd coming of Tom Brady and Jets can fill other gaps…

    • McGeorge

      >>Alternatively Hackenberg could always be the 2nd coming of Tom Brady and Jets can fill other gaps…

      That’s possible.
      It’s also possible I’ll win the $60,000,000 lottery.

      • Werner

        Possible, not saying probable beyond 0.05% … So he takes them to 0:16 and the top picks (in all rounds!) or to 10:6 just outside the play offs and they can pour their 60′ Cap Space into Free Agency to add the missing pieces for a Super Bowl Run next season. Still working on the probability distribution for this, but looks somewhat skewed…

    • Jim

      “Such behavior should cost the Jets Money and attractive Free Agent hirings in the future, if their agents pay attention to such approach”
      With that logic, shouldn’t everyone flock to Jacksonville because of how long they held on to Mercedes Lewis?

      95% of free agents are going to go where the most money is offered (guaranteed/likely to be earned money that is), and nothing else.

      • Werner

        Exactly. Any Agent may now know, that Jets would stick to the 2 Year minimum Life Expectancy of that contract and may destroy chances for getting a new contract on favorable terms because of late release. Best counteract is obviously a relevant Roster Bonus on 2nd day of League Year to force their hand early on….

  • julyeast

    Firing these guys would be foolish. Stick with the long-term plan. We are just about done paying for Woody’s sins to spend all the cap $ Idzik did not spend. I question the following moves: why sign McCown and eat up $6mil. Why sign Caliborne for 1 year? should have been 3 for $15 mil with $7.5 guaranteed or no signing. Why sign Beechum? why not get rid of Sheldon for even a 4 or a 5? clear up more cap room cause we will need it to retain our own home grown guys from the past 3 drafts….and if they turn out not be duds it is a moot point anyhow.

    • McGeorge

      Macc and Bowels are bad, but there is one reason to keep them – if they are fired it will be hard to get good replacements.
      So keep these bums 1 more year.

  • Cliff Baum

    I noticed once again that a shot was taken against Josh McCown, as if there are any options. If the Jets don’t believe Petty or Hackenberg are any good (which is likely), then what else are they supposed to do?? Kaepernick?

    • McGeorge

      Of course there were options other than signing McClown.
      Embrace the tank earlier and don’t sign him and go with Petty and Hackenberg.
      I’ll bet you the Jets screw up the tank and let San Fran have the #1.
      San Fran will get a good QB and the jets will get a mediocre one.
      Unless they pay to trade up.
      If the Jets don’t get the # I would fire Bowels and Macc.
      I’d also make them aware of that before the season starts.

      • Cliff Baum

        That is insane. One of those two QBs probably is getting cut and the GM/coach will be fired if they go 0-16. McCown is being paid like a high-end backup, which he is. Petty/Hackenberg probably aren’t even in the top 60 and will both be out of the league soon. Just because you want to tank doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to field a real team. If they put out the worst QBs ever then they will lose more in ticket revenue than McCown’s salary

        • McGeorge

          Thats insane.
          You want to tank, so make sure you do.
          Don’t do it half way, only to win a meaningless game and get … Mark Sanchez instead of Matt Stafford, or RG3 instead of Andrew Luck. You get the idea.

          Start Petty, then go to Hackenberg. Go 0-16 and get the franchise QB and be done with it. Build up from there and in a couple of years this can be a play off team, assuming Macc starts drafting well.

          • Cliff Baum

            There are 3 core issues with what you are suggesting. First of all, as I have stated I fully expect either Petty or Hackenberg to be cut before the season begins. Second, both of them are so terrible it will make evaluating the other players on offense nearly impossible. The wrong mindset to have is entering the season with the assumption that you don’t have any players worth keeping so an honest attempt to evaluate what you have is not useful. Instead, throw a competent high end backup QB out there, you still lose almost every game but you can actually learn something about your receivers and o-line.

            Third, the GM and coach would both certainly be fired if the team actually wins zero games. So not sure why their move to get McCown is a bad one from a self-preservation standpoint.

          • McGeorge

            Why cut Petty or Hackenberg? They make very little. And if you want to tank, go with them, not McCown.

            Who cares about evaluating some young receivers for 1 year, when you can secure a franchise QB. To jeopardize that to have a better chance of evaluating Robbie Anderson makes little sense.

            The GM and coach need to be on board with the owner. If the owner says “NO TANK” then win the extra meaningless game.
            But if the owner says “TANK” and assures them they wont be fired, then go for 0-16. Don’t do it half way (4-12) and lose out on the best QB.

            I expect Woody or Macc&Bowels to screw up and the Jets will end up not getting the #1.
            They will either have to trade up, or miss out. Either way they are screwed.
            If I were the owner I’d tell Macc and Bowels “This is the Jets golden opportunity to secure a franchise QB. Going 0-16 is fine and I’m looking forward to see what you do with him during the 2018 season. And if we don’t get our franchise QB in 2017, you are both fired. But since you have guarantees, I wont fire you until the day before 2018 starts, so you have trouble getting new jobs. Figure it out.”

          • Cliff Baum

            You can easily tank with McCown, that’s not an issue. Their secondary will be so bad they will not be able to compete without a top 15 QB. So yeah, McCown isn’t getting in the way of that.

            BUT, the premise that evaluating other pieces on offense is not important is….lunacy. Suppose they completely throw the season away on offense and secure the QB of their dreams. If they surround that QB with a terrible supporting cast then his development is going to be TOTALLY messed up. If you truly want to develop a franchise QB you need to establish some fundamental pieces at the same time–a functional line and at least 1-2 “safety net” options in the passing game. Otherwise he may go the way of David Carr.

            And Hackenberg…I have been kind in my previous posts but I’ll just come out and say it–he is so terrible he won’t even find a second team after the Jets cut him. You can find other street FA options better than him that are even cheaper.

            One last thing: there is a difference between tanking and ruining the reputation of your team. If you put out the worst team of all time it will put a stigma on the team that will take a DECADE to move on from. Why would the GM, owner, or coach ever be willing to do that? At least McCown can occasionally make games entertaining (in, hopefully, a losing effort).

            One last thing: there is no guarantee that if the Jets have the first pick that Sam Darnold will be willing to declare for the draft. If he doesn’t want to play in NY he can use his remaining eligibility as leverage to avoid them.

          • McGeorge

            McCown is better than Hackenberg and both are bad.
            Since the only objective this year is to get a good QB in 2018 do it correctly.
            Start Hackenberg not McClown.
            If the Jets start McClown “in order to evaluate Robbie Anderson, Enunwa, and others” and miss out on the best QB then its an epic fail.

            So it’s lunacy to start McClown instead of Hackenberg.

  • a57se

    Not to defend Macc, because I think he is in over his head, but we HAD to spend money in 2015, remember that was the 4th year of the 89% rule and Idzik had spent so little during his two years.