David Harris has not been the same player since he got his big contract in 2011. Whether the two are related is unclear, but it leaves the Jets in a bit of a pickle. Harris is going to come with a cap hit of $13 million in 2013. That is over 10% of the cap spent on the middle linebacker. The contract is not really that bad. The enormous cap hit is because Harris only counted $4 million in 2011. That contract is still pretty bad, though.
On the stat sheet, Harris had a 123 tackle season. Numbers are deceiving here, though. Harris isn't making the same kind of tackles he made early in his career. Back then, he was destroying run plays near the line of scrimmage. A lot of the decline in the run defense in the last two years can be laid at Harris' feet. Harris also struggles in coverage.
The Jets have a number of options with Harris, but none of them are attractive. They could simply let him play out his deal and bite the bullet on his $13 million hit this year. In 2014, Harris will still be overpaid at $7 million, but that is more reasonable. The Jets can also cut him after 2013 to clear up 2014 cap space.
The Jets could extend Harris' deal to bring down his cap number in the short term and make his long term number more reasonable. This is a leap of faith that he can return to his old form.
The Jets could also cut him and try to re-sign him for a cheaper rate. This actually would cost $500,000 more against the cap than keeping him would in 2013 before he was re-signed. Doing this you also run the risk of losing him to another team, which would be quite likely given the team's current cap space. You do get Harris' contract off the books, but you also create another gaping hole on defense to go with the current ones at both outside linebacker and safety spots.
I probably would bite the bullet if I was the Jets and let him play out another year. If Harris has a good year, the Jets can talk extension in twelve months. If he doesn't, they will be able to clear cap space by moving on.
Let me conclude by talking about a discussion I had two years ago with the Wall Street Journal's Michael Salfino. Salfino told me at the time that Harris wasn't worth the money the Jets were paying him. I disagreed. Michael, if you are reading this, you were right, and I was wrong.