Harris, voted the team MVP this season by his teammates, is due to become a free agent, but the Jets are leaning toward using the tag, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team cannot announce the move until Thursday.
Harris had 99 tackles and three sacks in his fourth season, and he is a valuable signal-caller in the middle of Jets coach Rex Ryan's aggressive defense. Since being drafted in the second round out of Michigan in 2007, Harris has 422 tackles, 15 sacks, five forced fumbles and two interceptions.
General manager Mike Tannenbaum recently said re-signing Harris was a priority for the team, and the Jets still could lock him up to a long-term deal -- whether or not they use the franchise tag. Harris is the last of the team's "Core Four" players -- including Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson -- to not land a new contract. The other three players received new deals before the season, and Harris said he would remain patient.
ESPN first reported the Jets' intentions Sunday.
Teams can start using the franchise label Feb. 10, but it is uncertain whether or not the tag will stand because of the unsettled labor situation. Jeff Pash, the NFL's lead labor negotiator, said earlier this week he expected the franchise tag to continue to operate as it has previously.
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith disagreed with that assessment, however, saying the 2011 season doesn't fall under the current collective bargaining agreement that expires March 3.
"If there is no CBA, the franchise tags will be meaningless," Smith said Thursday.
A franchise tag for Harris' position had been worth $9.6 million, meaning he could be in for a payday of close to $10 million.
The Jets will have another busy offseason ahead of them as they have to address several pending free agents in addition to Harris, including wide receivers Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith, and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press