Two weeks after being cut by the rebuilding Jets, linebacker David Harris has agreed to a two-year contract with the New England Patriots, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday.
Harris, who will almost certainly be inducted into the Jets’ Ring of Honor after his playing career is over, played 11 seasons with Gang Green and was considered one of the most respected players in franchise history.
“It was an organizational decision,” Jets head coach Todd Bowles said of Harris’ release on June 6.
By cutting the franchise’s second-leading tackler, the Jets saved $6.5 million against the salary cap. Bowles said the team and Harris, a second-round draft pick out of Michigan in 2007, had been discussing a salary reduction, but in the end the steady defensive star ended up joining the Jets’ incredible offseason roster purge. New York has released, among others, Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Nick Folk, Marcus Gilchrist, and Nick Mangold.
“They didn’t come to an agreement, and we didn’t come to an agreement, and it led to this,” Bowles said. “It wasn’t an easy time. David has been a Jet all his life. He … bled green.”
Nicknamed “The Hitman” for his knack for making big tackles, Harris had at least 113 in every season but his second, when he had 87 after missing six games with an injury. He ranks second to only Kyle Clifton (1,471) on the team’s career list with 1,260 tackles, according to stats compiled by the team. Harris led the Jets last year in that category, the ninth time in his 10 seasons doing so.
Following his release, Harris penned a heartfelt letter to Jets fans that was published on the team’s official website. In it he thanked owner Woody Johnson and others in the organization for giving him “the opportunity to live out my childhood dream of playing at this level.”
“To all of my former teammates, I enjoyed every single moment playing beside you throughout the years, during all of the ups and downs,” Harris also wrote. “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.”
The move to the hated Patriots has to be a tough pill for Jets fans to swallow. Harris, 33, will join a defense that already includes linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich, cornerback Malcolm Butler and safety Devin McCourty.
The defending Super Bowl champions have also added wide receiver Brandin Cooks, tight end Dwayne Allen and corner Stephone Gimore this offseason.