The New York Jets made a surprising move Tuesday, releasing veteran linebacker David Harris after 10 seasons with the franchise.
Harris, 33, was on the practice field with the team earlier in the day before ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the roster move in the afternoon.
"It's amazing," Harris said after practice, via ESPN, unaware he was minutes away from being released. "Time flies by. One day you're a rookie and here it is, 11 years later, and you're the old guy."
Harris was a second-round pick for the Jets in the 2007 NFL draft and missed only six games in his 10 seasons with the team. The linebacker was set to reach the final year of a three-year, $21.5 million deal signed in 2015. But by releasing Harris, the Jets save $6.5 million in cap space and clear him from the books without any dead money.
Financially, it’s a logical decision for a team in the midst of a rebuild, but the timing is surprising.
"Very disappointing [sic] in the timing of this event and the decision,” Harris’ agents — Brian Mackler and Jim Ivler — said, via Schefter. “The Jets could have 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."
Bowles called the decision to release Harris an “organizational decision” and revealed that there were talks of a pay cut for the linebacker, but they were unsuccessful. Still, $6.5 million isn’t much for a reliable starter.
Why was David Harris deemed too expensive at $6.5 million? Said Todd Bowles: "That's a good question."— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY) June 6, 2017
It was likely spurred by the acquisition of Demario Davis last week. The Jets shipped safety Calvin Pryor to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for Davis. The 28-year-old linebacker spent the first four seasons of his career with the Jets before signing a two-year, $8 million deal with the Browns a year ago.
The decision also indicates the Jets probably aren’t too worried about an incident possibly involving Darron Lee that the NFL is currently investigating. Bowles said the team doesn’t plan to discipline Lee for the incident.
Harris leaves the Jets with 35 career sacks, six interceptions, and 10 forced fumbles in 154 games.