It’s official. The New York Jets are in full blown rebuild mode after releasing two more established veterans: Linebacker David Harris and Wide Receiver Eric Decker. The “quarterback of the defense,” as Head Coach Todd Bowles often referred to him, Harris may have been the most surprising cut of the offseason that has seen the likes of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall, and Nick Mangold get the axe. Earlier in the offseason I predicted the Jets would keep Harris around for the 2017 season and Sheldon Richardson appears to be as shocked by the move as I am. Now it appears the Jets will enter training camp with a middle linebacker duo of Darron Lee and Demario Davis, a former Jet who was acquired in a trade that sent safety Calvin Pryor to the Cleveland Browns.
The release of Eric Decker also sent a message to the rest of the team that the Jets are all in on the youth movement. Decker, who the Jets tried to trade prior to cutting him, is coming off hip and shoulder surgeries and appeared to be on pace for healthy start to training camp. He was the most experienced pass catcher on the Jets’ roster. The most experienced receiver on the roster now? Quincy Enunwa, who has a total of 80 career catches.
You have to be upset by the way the Jets treated their longest tenured player. Harris did not learn of his fate until after practice on June 6th, meaning he missed out on free agency and his chance to sign with a team prior organized team activities and minicamp. He’s a future Ring of Honor member and deserved to be treated better. Harris has yet to sign with a team.
Decker’s situation was a little different. Coming off of shoulder and hip surgeries who knows what kind of market he would have garnered if he were a free agent at the beginning of the off season. From all reports in minicamp Decker looked good running routes, so this gave him a chance to showcase his health to other teams around the league. He has since signed a one year deal with the Tennessee Titans.
From a financial standpoint, however, you can understand these moves by the front office. Neither Harris nor Decker were likely to be part of the Jets future beyond the 2017 season, and cutting them saved the Jets $13.75 million in cap space. Even so, Harris and Decker would have been solid veteran presences on a young team. According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the Jets are expected to be at least $80 million under the cap after next season, to go along with an inevitable top 5 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, in which they have a total of eight picks. That is major capital to rebuild a roster that is in serious need of big-time playmakers.
The Jets put themselves in this position with years of poor drafting and an owner who refused to tear down his roster time and time again, opting for quick fixes through free agency. General Manager Mike Maccagnan is now taking a new approach trying to build a competitive roster through the draft. On the surface this seems like a solid approach, but as we’ll learn in the coming weeks the draft has not been too kind to the Jets in recent years. Prior to the Jets’ first training camp practice on July 29th I’ll break down each Jets draft from 2012-2016.
Spoiler alert: it’s not going to be pretty.