The Jets have not been shy in aggressively parting ways with franchise legends over the past two years. Veteran linebacker David Harris is the latest cog in their 2009 and 2010 AFC title runs to fall by the wayside.
The Jets released the 33-year-old on Tuesday, Jets coach Todd Bowles announced. A second-round pick out of Michigan in 2007, Harris has missed just one game in the last eight years. A staple at middle linebacker through three different head coaches, he was one of the team's unquestioned leaders during the height of their success seven years ago.
Bowles told reporters the move was "an organizational decision" after the team's attempt to negotiate a contract reduction "broke down."
In a statement obtained by NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, Harris' agents, Brian Mackler and Jim Ivler of Sportstars, wrote, "Very disappointed in the timing of this event and the decision. The Jets could've 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."
Harris led the team in tackles last year, with 62 solo stops.
So it goes for the Jets, who have now said goodbye to seven-time Pro Bowler Nick Mangold, three-time Pro Bowler D'Brickashaw Ferguson, seven-time Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis and four-time Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie all in the last year and a half.
The team recently re-acquiredDemario Davis from the Browns, a former understudy of Harris' who will likely assume that role again in 2017.
Owner Woody Johnson was honest about the club's pivot toward youth, though Harris was expected to survive. He will save the Jets $6.5 million against the cap, according to salary cap site Over The Cap.
The difficult part about any youth movement is a leadership void. The Jets' defense is now being run emotionally by the likes of Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams.
Waving goodbye to the longest-tenured player in the locker room increases the difficulty of an already uphill climb.
UPDATE: Harris isn't the only player leaving the Jets. Garafolo reported Tuesday the team will either release or trade wide receiver Eric Decker this week.
"The past couple of days have allowed me to reflect on my career with the New York Jets and how grateful I am.
"First, I want to thank Woody Johnson and everyone in the Jets organization who gave me the opportunity to live out my childhood dream of playing at this level, for every day of these last 10 years. Thank you for exposing a kid from the Southeast side of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and his family, to so many wonderful experiences. We have made lifelong memories here in New York.
"To Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan, Todd Bowles and your coaching staffs -- thank you for your trust and confidence in choosing me to lead your defenses and teaching me how to truly play this game. Thanks to John Mellody, Dave Zuffelato, Josh Koch, Ezron Bryson, Greg Rosequist and the rest of the medical training staff. You guys are the heroes working tirelessly behind the scene. To Justus Galac, Aaron McLaurin and the rest of the strength and conditioning crew -- thank you for never allowing me to just settle, and for pushing me in many ways more than just physically. Thank you Dave Szott and Montelle Sanders for everything you do for the players.
"To all of my former teammates, I enjoyed every single moment playing beside you throughout the years, during all of the ups and downs. Only we know the sacrifices that were made, day in and day out, to be able to put out the very best product possible for our fans. I want every single one of you to know that my loyalty has always been to you guys in that locker room and to the coaches. And last but not least, to all of those diehard Jets fans -- thank you for your support and motivation.
"Many lessons can be taught and learned in this sport that we love to watch and play. When I attended the University of Michigan our head strength coach, Mike Gittleson, used to always make us do this exercise called 'farmer's walks' during off-season conditioning. He made us do them from end zone to end zone and then back, in deep snow and freezing temperatures, carrying very heavy sandbags in each hand. He made sure that each one of us never followed in the player's footprints who did the exercise before us because that would've been the easy route. Instead, he made sure every single man made and took their own path. And ever since then, that's what I have strived to do.