"It was an organizational decision," Jets coach Todd Bowles said, according to the team's website. "We were talking about a salary reduction, we couldn't come to an agreement, and eventually it led to this." He said talks had been going on "the past couple of days."
Bowles continued: "It wasn't an easy time. David's been a Jet all his life. He was born and bled green. He's obviously a guy who is well-liked in the building. It's part of the business, it's never an easy thing to go through. There's never a good time that it could happen. There was a breakdown in talks and that's what led to this."
And team owner Woody Johnson added: "For a decade, David Harris represented the Jets with character and professionalism. He held himself to the highest of standards and always carried himself with a quiet dignity and humility. While these decisions are always difficult and the timing is not ideal, David will always be a Jet, and I appreciate his leadership and passion."
Still, Harris' agents weren't happy with when their client was released.
"Very disappointing in the timing of this event and the decision," Harris' agents Brian Mackler and Jim Ivler told ESPN's Adam Schefter. "The Jets could have done this prior to free agency instead of waiting three months, especially for a player who has exhibited nothing but loyalty and class for 10 years."
A 2007 second-round pick, Harris arrived in New York when the Jets had one of the league's worst defenses. By 2008 the unit improved to 14th, according to Football Outsiders' metric, and became a top-five unit after Rex Ryan's arrival as head coach in 2009. The Jets also went to back-to-back AFC Championship Games in Ryan's first two years but had just one winning season over the next six years.
Harris, who started 15 games and had 95 tackles last season, was expected to be the Jets' starting inside linebacker alongside former first-round pick Darron Lee. But last week the team Demario Davis, who played in New York from 2012-15 before signing with the Browns last offseason, and he could replace Harris in the starting lineup.
Harris, 33, ranked 35th among all inside linebackers last season, according to Pro Football Focus, but the Jets will save $6.5 million against the cap by releasing him.
It's been a busy offseason for the Jets, who are looking to rebound from a 5-11 campaign in 2016. They drafted safeties in the first two rounds of the draft, shipped 2014 first-round pick Calvin Pryor out of town (he was the other part of the Davis trade) and released veterans Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis . They still need a franchise quarterback; as it stands, the depth chart includes 38-year-old journeyman Josh McCown, 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg and 2015 fourth-rounder Bryce Petty.