Report: Woody Johnson Pushed Jets To Cut Payroll, Leading To Departures Of Harris And Decker

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Owner Woody Johnson’s desire to slash payroll was “solely” behind the Jets’ decision to part ways with linebacker David Harris and wide receiver Eric Decker, according to a report.

The Daily News’ Manish Mehta reported Wednesday that Johnson wanted to save more money this season as the team rebuilds.

MORE: Lichtenstein: Jets Are Setting Themselves Up For Historically Awful Season

The Jets released Harris on Tuesday and plan to either cut or trade Decker this week, saving the team $13.75 in cash payroll.

General manager Mike Maccagnan, however, denied Tuesday that the moves were financially motivated.

David Harris

Jets linebacker David Harris tackles the Colts’ Josh Robinson on Sept. 21, 2015, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

“No, I think there’s a lot of things that go into these decisions,” he said. “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.”

On some level, the cost-cutting moves can easily be justified. Even before the Jets decided to move on from their steadiest defensive player and one of their biggest playmakers over the past few seasons, Vegas put the odds of them winning the Super Bowl at 200-to-1 — third lowest in the NFL.

In other words, the team is not expected to do much in 2017, with or without Harris and Decker, who are both on the wrong side of 30 and were among the team’s highest-paid players.

Harris, 33, played 11 seasons with the Jets, making him the longest-tenured member of the team. He was drafted in the second round in 2007 and eventually became the heart of a defense that reached the AFC championship game in back-to-back seasons under former coach Rex Ryan in 2009 and 2010.

Harris had at least 113 tackles in every season but his second, when he had 87 after missing six games with an injury. He ranks second all-time in franchise history with 1,260 tackles, trailing only Kyle Clifton.

Coach Todd Bowles said the Jets approached Harris about taking a pay cut, but they couldn’t agree on a salary.

The linebacker’s agents criticized the team for the timing of the release.

“The Jets could have done this prior to free agency instead of waiting three months,” Brian Mackler and Jim Ivler said in a statement, “especially for a player who has exhibited nothing but loyalty and class for 10 years.”

gettyimages 502625474 e1496848094244 Report: Woody Johnson Pushed Jets To Cut Payroll, Leading To Departures Of Harris And Decker

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker scores the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Dec. 27, 2015. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Decker only played in three games last season, catching nine passes, before being place on injured reserve with a partially torn rotator cuff. He later underwent surgeries on both his shoulder and hip.

In 2014, he caught 74 passes for 962 yards and five touchdowns. His best season with Gang Green came in 2015, when he hauled in 80 passes for 1,027 yards and 12 TDs.

The Jets’ purge of veterans this offseason also has included center Nick Mangold, cornerback Darrelle Revis, guard Breno Giacomini, wide receiver Brandon Marshall and kicker Nick Folk.

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