The decision to release David Harris and part ways with Eric Decker, who will be traded or cut, created shock waves for the New York Jets. Of all the headline-grabbing cuts this offseason, these two hit the hardest among folks in the organization.
The NFL is a cold business, and the Jets must get back to work and figure out ways to replace the two popular players.
Decker's imminent departure will change the dynamic at wide receiver, as the Jets have arguably the most unproven corps in the league. Their most accomplished receiver is Quincy Enunwa, who has 80 career catches. They have eight players with at least one NFL reception, but the group totals only 199 receptions.
The Jets are counting heavily on third-round pick ArDarius Stewart and fourth-rounder Chad Hansen to play key roles. It should be noted that Stewart has been sidelined by a thumb injury and hasn't practiced much.
The current depth chart might look something like this:
Replacing Harris, who played the all-important middle linebacker position, will be tougher than replacing Decker because there's no heir apparent. That's why the move made no sense. When Harris missed the Week 6 game last season with a hamstring injury, the Jets moved weakside linebacker Erin Henderson into the Mike position, elevating rookie Darron Lee into a starting role on the weak side.
Harris missed only 15 snaps for the remainder of the season, so they never had to worry about the position. Truth be told, they haven't had to worry about it since 2007.
Now they do because they don't have a natural Mike linebacker on the roster, and that is problematic. It takes a special player because it is not only extremely physical but also a thinking man's position. The Mike calls the defensive signals and makes adjustments. Harris relished that role and did it well.
A possible depth chart for the two inside-linebacker slots:
Coach Todd Bowles mentioned Demario Davis, Bruce Carter and Julian Stanford as candidates. Davis, reacquired last week in a trade with the Cleveland Browns, has plenty of starting experience, but he has never played in the middle. Carter has previous starting experience, although he played only 121 defensive snaps last season. Opposing scouts say he's not physical enough to play the Mike. Stanford is just a fringe guy.
Bowles acknowledged the Jets will be "different" without Harris, adding that it remains to be seen if they're better. He got that right.