Jets fans blindsided by the team’s cutting spree on Monday need to look no further than the billionaire bossman to find the answer to their questions.
My understanding is that the Jets’ decision to part ways with respected veterans David Harris and Eric Decker was heavily influenced by Woody Johnson’s desire to reduce payroll during a rebuilding season. And by “heavily influenced,” I mean that the owner’s desire to save more money this year prompted the team to say goodbye to the linebacker and wide receiver. The organization slashed $13.75 million in cash payroll.
Asked Monday whether the decision to cut Harris and impending decision to cut Decker (assuming no trade is made) were financially motivated, general manager Mike Maccagnan simply said: “No, I think there’s a lot of things that go into these decisions. I think we’ve been focused on trying to create opportunities for a lot of players on this roster. We have some very competitive positions and we’ll see how it unfolds going forward.”
The truth, however, is that these two moves were, indeed, solely motivated by the owner’s decision to slash payroll.
In a vacuum, Johnson’s logic to save some loot in 2017 makes perfect sense given that he has agreed to bottom-out and let this regime build a solid foundation through the draft. Why overpay for a couple aging players who don’t have a long-term future with the organization? Let’s be fair, too: Harris and Decker weren’t going to be the difference between making or missing the playoffs.
In that sense — and that sense only — Johnson should not be vilified. He is finally taking the right approach by not slapping band-aids on open wounds that require radical reconstructive surgery. Stripping it down is the smart way to move forward. The owner should be commended for getting on board with that approach.
These types of decisions, however, should never be made in a vacuum. Harris was the epitome of a pro, who has spent his entire 10-year career with the Jets. He was literally the only established defensive player that you could call a leader.
Harris is still a good enough player to warrant starter status on this team, even at the age of 33.
“I’m in favor of what we decided as an organization,” said Todd Bowles, who has repeatedly praised Harris in his first two seasons
Harris, frankly, deserved much better treatment in this respect: The Jets should have cut him months ago (like veterans like Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis and Mangold) before free agency if this was all about saving money during a lost season.
When there were rumblings in early March that Harris might be on the chopping block, the powers that be gave his camp assurance that he was going nowhere. That wasn’t a lie. At the time, the team had no intention of cutting him.
The Jets have a plan, even though these latest moves make it appear that they’re flying by the seat of their pants.
Things changed recently. Johnson was the driving force behind the change.
A failed attempt by the team and Harris’ camp to work out a pay cut in the past 72 hours ultimately led to his departure. It was a classless way to deal with a classy player and another reminder that the NFL is the ultimate cutthroat business.
Nobody on the field or sideline this fall will be tanking, but there’s no denying this reality: The Jets don’t have the horses to compete for a playoff spot this year. Johnson has made it clear that there is no playoff mandate for Maccagnan and Bowles in 2017, but he needs to see progress from the young players on the roster.
That’s perfectly fair. If Johnson is a man of his word — and the young core shows tangible improvement — then the GM and head coach will return in 2018, where they will be positioned to land the one piece that has eluded this organization since man first walked on the moon: A franchise quarterback.
The owner has the right intentions, but that doesn’t excuse him from making his organization look pretty bad at the moment.