Why the Raiders should sign David Harris

Dec 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Rod Streater (80) runs away from New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris (52) during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Rod Streater (80) runs away from New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris (52) during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders are still in desperate need of help at the linebacker position, and David Harris is a player who can help with that.

The Oakland Raiders are widely considered a Super Bowl contender heading into the 2017 season with talent, experience and depth at most positions across the board. But one position that is lacking in experience is middle linebacker. After passing on high-priced free agents like Zach Brown and waiting until the fifth round selection of Marquel Lee in the 2017 draft, the Raiders still have a bit of a hole in the middle.

That’s not to say the position is lacking talent. Second-year man Cory James and former practice squad player Tyrell Adams got most first-team reps in OTAs, and James has some starting experience.

With Perry Riley Jr. still on the Free Agent market, those two players at this point have the very early inside track on the starting job. James’ speed, agility, and versatility give him the slight edge at this point, but his slight stature saw him struggle in run fits at times last year and made it difficult for him to get off blocks.

Reggie McKenzie is a reclamation maven in the mould of Al Davis. He reclaimed Michael Crabtree. He’s reclaimed Reggie Nelson, David Amerson, the aforementioned Riley Jr. All have made solid, if not stellar, contributions to the team.

It’s time to reclaim David Harris.

In what some are calling a surprise move, the Jets released their long-time incumbent MLB yesterday. When you look at the fact the Jets have sold off everything but Fireman Ed and their lame J-E-T-S chant, this is no surprise at all.

It might be dumb, seeing that Harris is still an excellent player at 33 years old and the Jets have a distinct lack of excellent players on their roster. But not surprising.

The fact that Harris has never made the Pro Bowl is surprising. Drafted by the Jets in the second round of the 2007 draft, Harris replaced Jonathan Vilma due to injury his rookie season and promptly made 34 tackles his first two games. He replaced Vilma full-time in 2008, and has started all but six games since.  At one point the iron man started 133 straight games and 137 of 138.

He’s not just there, either. He’s stellar. A silent leader by example, Jets coach Todd Bowles was noticeably frustrated and surprised by the release of one of his favorite players. A guy he calls “the glue” of his defense.

Harris was due $6.5M this season, though none guaranteed. The Jets, with their recent cuts, the trade for DeMario Davis and the drafting of Darron Lee last year, likely saw Harris as easy money to save.

Many feel that the Jets did Harris a disservice by cutting him this late. His agents are not pleased:

They could’ve given him a chance at free agency and cut him in early March. There was no salary cap advantage to waiting. It could work in the Raiders favor, as they have a need at MLB larger than most and still have $13.5M in cap space at the moment.

Besides, Reggie McKenzie is one of the shrewdest negotiators in the business when it comes to players that other people don’t want to pay. He got Donald Penn for under $5M in 2014, and still pays one of the top graded LTs in the NFL under $6M through 2018. He got Amerson for a song, and then rewarded him after that song turned into a hit in 2015.

McKenzie signed Riley for less than $1M last season. He knows how to work veterans on prove-it deals.

Harris brings to the table an instinctive leader with good size at 6’2″, 250 pounds. Yet for a big man, he’s laterally quick and fast to the ball. He’s aging and thus not quite as fast as he once was. Still, in 15 games in 2016 he racked up 95 total tackles, with a half sack and 2 passes defensed.

There are whispers he’s lost a step, and at 33 years old that’s a fair whisper. But he graded out at 77.6 by Pro Football Focus in 2016 and continued his excellent tackle rate and coverage rate.

Harris averages 108 tackles per season over ten years. He’s got six career INTs, and 31 passes defensed. He also has 35 career sacks, showing he can rush the passer with some success. He’s versatile and intelligent, and roundly praised as an excellent leader and teammate.

Harris also runs a yearly charity golf tournament and is a stalwart in the New York community, something many current Raiders covet. He’d mesh right in with current leaders and community players Marshawn Lynch, Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. Good teammates are important. Everything you hear and read about Harris give the impression he’d only improve an already solid locker room.

The Raiders have talent and experience at every level of defense, save linebacker. Signing Harris would allow James to compete with Jelani Jenkins at WLB. This is James’ stronger position, with his agility and quickness. He also won’t get swallowed up as much on the outside.

More from Just Blog Baby

Harris would likely not command too much salary, although his refusal to take a pay cut allegedly played into his release. Somewhere in the $3.5 to $5M annual range should do it. He’s more likely to take a pay cut at this point. Oh, and for a Super Bowl contender too.

Harris brings experience, leadership, high level of play and a likely chip on his shoulder. The Raiders should sign him to a one-year deal, if McKenzie can get the right price. Harris doesn’t have special teams ability which hurts. But he brings another veteran talent at a position of need. He’d give the linebackers some depth, and cement the Raiders defense at each level with solid depth and talent.

Next: Five Raiders Schedule Observations

They can also use Harris as a mentor for James and Lee. This gives Lee time to gain experience and prepare to compete to take over at MLB. For the right price, it just makes sense.