The NFL and the NFL Players Association are divided on this issue, with the NFLPA saying franchise tags won't be valid without a new collective bargaining agreement. The current agreement expires March 3 at midnight.
Use of the tag means the Jets must pay him the average of the top five salaries among linebackers in 2010. Harris' position was worth about $9.6 million, and it's expected the franchise tag would be worth about $10 million at his position in 2011.
Harris' agent, Brian Mackler, indicated he knew this was coming, and had advised Harris to expect it.
"It's a procedural move that they had to do," Mackler said, "based on the CBA climate that we're in. This, in no way, precludes us from our ultimate goal, which is to get David signed to a long-term contract with the Jets."
Mackler added that the current labor uncertainty makes negotiating "very difficult," saying, "nobody knows what the future holds. ... Nobody knows what the (economic) landscape is going to be."
Harris, a second-round pick from Michigan in 2007, has played four seasons for the Jets. He had 99 tackles and three sacks last season and was voted the Jets' MVP by his teammates.
Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said recently that re-signing Harris was a "priority" for the team, which also figures to have several other big-name free agents, including wide receivers Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
The Jets last used the franchise tag in 2006, on defensive end John Abraham. He was later traded to Atlanta in a three-way deal with Denver that netted the Jets the 29th overall pick in the 2006 draft, which they used to select three-time Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold.
Harris turned 27 in January, and it was vital that the Jets retained him, considering that the rest of their starting linebackers in 2010 all are at least 30 or older. Those players are outside linebackers Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace and fellow inside linebacker Bart Scott.
Scott was signed to a six-year, $48 million contract two years ago on the first day of free agency. But in two seasons as a Jet, he has two sacks, one forced fumble and three passes defensed.
Those numbers don't seem to be worth $8 million per year. So it will be interesting if the Jets ask him to restructure his deal if that's what it takes to get everybody they want re-signed. It will be quite interesting to see if coach Rex Ryan and Jets management do that, considering he easily is Ryan's favorite player and the first Jets' signing of the Ryan coaching era.