Harris is one of a handful of players from those Rex Ryan conference championship teams that likely will be in the team’s Ring of Honor someday, probably flanked by names such as Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Darrelle Revis.
There's no question that he deserves to be up there. The entirety of his decade in the NFL to date was spent in the green and white of this team, a quiet and yeomanlike warrior who spoke little but left it all out on the field every day.
He perhaps didn’t draw the media attention of a Revis or the accolades of the other stars on those very good teams. But what Harris did was produce as well as any middle linebacker in the league over the past decade.
That the Jets cut him in June was no indictment on him as a man, as his character was among the best to ever grace a professional locker room. And it isn’t a slight on the field either as Harris will certainly sign and contribute elsewhere. He still has the goods to play and be an integral part in nearly any defense in the NFL — his 62 tackles last year far were from his career pinnacle, but certainly were not bad numbers either.
But these Jets, well, they are in complete rebuild mode. They’ve made room this offseason with cuts to Mangold and Revis, waving goodbye as well to the likes of wide receiver Brandon Marshall and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now wide receiver Eric Decker looks like he is next on the chopping block.
None were easy decisions, but this team can’t be built on past glory.
These are the types of days that Jets fans must suffer through now, the cutting of favorites with links to glory days. But if those glory days are to return, then simply put, the stars of yesterday can’t be a part of this team moving forward.
Now this team belongs to Leonard Williams and Jamal Adams and whoever the Jets draft to be their next franchise quarterback when their two wins next season guarantees them one of the top selections in the NFL Draft.
That Harris won’t have won a Super Bowl with the Jets is a shame but perhaps he can find this deserved glory with another playoff contender for a few years.
But this move, as with prior decisions with Revis and Mangold, is all about 2018 and beyond. The Jets are going to have plenty of money as some estimates are putting the total at nearly $90 million in salary cap space heading into next offseason. The decision on Tuesday to cut a starting linebacker certainly factors into that.
It wasn’t easy for the Jets to do. No one was more loyal to the Jets than Harris, his style and temperament perfect for a team seemingly always in the throes of transition. But in this business, the cold reality is that it was entirely necessary as the Jets were left with no other decision but to cut Harris.
A day drenched in emotion, yes, but also with hope. If the Jets get this latest rebuild right then it was worthwhile.