Just hours after the Giants completed the trade of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers, they parted ways with another veteran player. Return specialist Dwayne Harris, who was signed as a free agent in 2015 and had been the team’s leading kickoff returner, was released Thursday afternoon.
Unlike the Pierre-Paul trade, Harris’ ouster was a more predictable move as part of new general manager Dave Gettleman’s roster retooling. Harris, a part-time receiver, played only the first five games last season before suffering a fractured foot on Oct. 8 against the Chargers. That was the same game the Giants also lost receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard to ankle injuries. Harris underwent surgery and was placed on injured reserve, missing the rest of the season.
Harris was selected to the Pro Bowl as a special-teams player in 2016, as he led the Giants in kickoff and punt returns for the second straight year. He was fifth in the NFL with a 24.2-yard average on 22 kickoff returns, and had a 5.9-yard average on 29 punt returns.
In his first year with the Giants, the former Cowboys receiver/special teamer played 15 games and had six starts, catching a career-high 36 passes for 396 yards and four touchdowns. He was third in the NFL with a 28.7-yard kickoff return average, including a 100-yard return for touchdown against the Cowboys on Oct. 25. He also had an 80-yard punt-return touchdown against the Jets in 2015, becoming only the third player in franchise history to have at least one kickoff and punt-return touchdown in the same season. Harris is the only player in Giants history to score on a punt return, kickoff return and reception in the same season.