The Jets definitely knew they were going to release David Harris before the start of the 2017 season. In 2016, Harris was amongst the least efficient linebackers in the entire league and owed 7.5 million, top 20 in the league amongst off-ball linebackers. You can’t pay that to a player that is playing like one of the worst in the league.
Harris performed at a -3.0% efficiency last season, 76th out of 94 linebackers that played at least 250 snaps. It’s exceptionally inefficient, and at age 33 it’s safe to bet against Harris bouncing back.
But Harris is one of the longest tenured Jets and one of the few faces the franchise had this decade. If the reported story that Harris didn’t even know he was cut until being told by reporters at his locker is true, then it’s incredibly insulting to the last second round pick the Jets have actually succeeded with.
Being cut so late could have been influenced Harris into signing with the Patriots more-so than he would’ve otherwise, but it’s more likely he just wants to win now. However, I’d take the bet that his value to the Patriots isn’t very high.
The Patriots linebacker core has two players that I’d bet are more likely to see playing time than Harris; Dont’a Hightower and Elandon Roberts. Roberts is the most efficient remaining middle of field defender on this depth chart, with a very high ceiling to boot.
Roberts is beloved by the Model, coming in at 32% potential for LB24 success with a genuinely impressive profile and fantastic performance as a rookie finishing in the top half of NFL efficiency on nearly 300 snaps. He’s the likely strong side linebacker, or the potential Mike if the current one continues to be inefficient.
Hightower is a big body linebacker like Elandon, but is a significantly worse producer in college and in his latest NFL season. The potential for him to share time with Harris is there. Especially if the Patriots are committed to utilizing the third linebacker spot in the same “creative” ways it’s been used at for years.
The Patriots third linebacker spot has been taken up at times by Rob Ninkovich to Brandon Browner to Patrick Chung. It’s not even unrealistic this season they could put out three safeties more than three linebackers. Harris gives them a new option to play at all three linebacker spots but his age and recent production says that he’s likely to be used as a rotational piece.
He’s not worth IDP rostering as more than a random flyer. Harris does fit a weakside linebacker role that the Patriots don’t have, but the numbers say that’s not a good assumption. The only argument in favor of that is that they handed him a two year contract instead of one.