Jets were right to move on from two key veteran players
By Jack Monaghan
It hurts that it happened but the New York Jets were right to move on from both linebacker David Harris and wide receiver Eric Decker.
After going nearly two months without cutting one of their veteran players, the New York Jets continued their roster purge Tuesday as they said goodbye to veterans, David Harris and Eric Decker. Decker and Harris join a laundry list of players from last years team to receive their walking papers from general manager Mike Maccagnan.
A franchise that entered last season as one of the oldest rosters in football has been shredded to one of the league’s youngest rosters, which will likely result in a long and painful rebuilding season. With just four players over the age of 30 left on the Jets roster (Tanner Purdum, Josh McCown, Steve McLendon, Matt Forte) it’s fair to say that the organization is in full rebuild mode with their eye on a possible quarterback in what could shape up to be a very rich class in 2018.
But that’s a story for another day, the bottom line is Harris and Decker are luxuries for a team at this point in their careers, and with the Jets several years away from contending it didn’t make much sense financially to keep the two vets on the final 53-man roster.
It was a complete shocker earlier this week when the Jets decided to release Harris, who has been a mainstay at the position for the franchise since his entrance into the league back in 2007. The most unbelievable part about Harris is that he’s the last gem the Jets have been able to uncover in the 2nd Round.
By cutting Harris, the Jets will save $6.5M in cap money, but will also be losing perhaps their biggest team leader, and will now have an empty cupboard when it comes to significant experience at the linebacker position. At 33 years of age, Harris is a luxury for a team at this point in his career as he is no longer the every down Mike linebacker that he used to be, and can only play the run effectively.
One of the reasons why this move comes as a surprise is that according to OverTheCap.com, the Jets would have saved the same amount of money by cutting Harris before June 1st which makes you wonder why they waited until June 6th to make the move.
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Furthermore, unlike Decker, there was no real speculation surrounding Harris’s future with the Jets, which lead many to believe that he was still a part of the team’s future plans.
His release means it’s time for last year’s first round pick Darron Lee to step up his game and be ready for the bright lights come Week 1 when the Jets travel to Orchard Park to take on the Buffalo Bills.
The Jets front office clearly believes in Lee’s potential and his ability to make the next step in his sophomore season and become their featured Mike linebacker otherwise they wouldn’t have had the privilege of moving on from Harris.
The other key cog in this move that won’t get a lot of attention but is worth keeping any eye on is the return of Demario Davis whom the Jets re-acquired last week from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for Calvin Pryor.
Head coach Todd Bowles clearly wants to have another crack at turning around the career of the Jets 2012 3rd Round pick out of Arkansas State, whose NFL career has fallen off track the last couple of seasons. At 28 years of age, Davis still has plenty of football left, and with former Steeler great Kevin Greene cemented as the team’s new linebacker coach, the Jets may believe they have what it takes to uncover Davis’s seemingly lost talent and make him their second guy in command at inside linebacker next to Lee.
Despite his subpar play the last few seasons, Davis is well known for being a strong leader on and off the field. While he may not have quite the respect that Harris has earned over his 10-year career, he is a much cheaper option for the Jets who are desperately trying to clear cap space for the future.
As far as Decker is concerned, it was anybody’s best guess whether or not the Jets would retain the eighth-year pro out of Minnesota. Decker came over to the Jets prior to the 2014 season and put up respectable numbers during his first year with Gang Green but his stats were limited due to injuries and poor quarterback play. However, Decker bounced back brilliantly in 2015, totaling 80 receptions for 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns as he made an immediate connection with then Jets quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
During that 2015 season, he and Brandon Marshall formed one of the league’s most productive 1-2 punches, but Decker played only two games in 2016 as he underwent hip surgery in October and missed the remainder of the season. By waiting to part ways with Decker until June 1st, the Jets save $7.25M in cap space and opens the door for some intriguing young talent to showcase their skills.
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Wide receiver’s Ardarius Stewart and Chad Hansen who were selected by the Jets in the 3rd and 4th Rounds of this year’s draft, will see more reps in training camp as a result of Decker’s release and perhaps some more than expected snaps during the regular season. Decker no longer being a member of the Jets also means more targets for second-year pro, Robby Anderson, and a chance for Quincy Enunwa to prove he’s more than just an adequate second option.