The New York Jets are in the midst of rebuilding their roster. In order to get younger and cheaper talent onto the team, New York has let multiple veterans go this offseason. Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis and Eric Decker are just three of the players released by the Jets.
Yesterday, the team said goodbye to another long-standing contributor: After 10 seasons in New York, the Jets have released linebacker David Harris. At 33 years of age, he was the second-oldest player under contract and now has to give way to the next generation of defenders.
Despite his age, Harris was a regular contributor last season. He appeared in 15 games and played 86.8% of defensive snaps. And while he has lost a step when compared to his prime in the early 2010s, his smarts and instincts still make him a serviceable linebacker - one that should draw attention from other teams around the league.
Could the New England Patriots be one of them? When simply judging by head coach Bill Belichick’s remarks made in 2014, the answer is “yes”:
I have a lot of respect for David Harris. [...] That guy, first of all, he never comes of the field – not just this year but any year. The guy is like a 98, 99 percent playtime player for them every year, year after year. It’s obviously a defense that has a lot of communication and adjustments, and he’s certainly at the center of that. Both as the signal caller and then at the line of scrimmage, you can see him adjusting the front or making some type of communication calls to his teammates.
He’s a very instinctive player, which unfortunately we’ve seen that first-hand. He does a good job for them. He’s been very consistent, durable, dependable, productive over a long period of time.
The Patriots do have some question marks at Harris’ position. While one spot is in the safe hands of recently re-signed Dont’a Hightower, the primary spot next to the team captain is up for grabs. Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin are the frontrunners to earn playing time there but maybe an experienced player like Harris could also enter the rotation.
While he is no full-time player anymore (even though the Jets used him as such), the former second round pick could still be an asset if used in a reduced and clearly defined role. Being on the field on early downs and playing the run could be key components of this role. And this is exactly where the problem lies for Harris as New England already has a linebacker to play this role: second-year man Elandon Roberts.
In his first season, the 23-year old has shown a lot of promise as an instinctive and physical run stuffer. While he still needs to grow as a pass defender, Roberts is certainly more valuable to the Patriots than Harris would be. As such, and considering the projected growth of Van Noy and McClellin, the ex-Jet projects to likely only be an injury insurance option for New England.
While the team should kick its tires, as it always does, it would probably be better off moving forward with the younger options already under contract. Would it be a surprise to see him invited to a visit or even be signed to participate in training camp? No, given that he would offer seasoned depth. The chances of Harris actually having any impact for the Patriots, however, appear to be slim.