Jets release cornerback Antonio Cromartie

Steam comes out of the mouth of Antonio Steam comes out of the mouth of Antonio Cromartie as he walks in the cold weather before a game against the Oakland Raiders. (Dec. 8, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Antonio Cromartie knew it was inevitable.

The cornerback hinted back in January that he expected to be a salary-cap casualty, and Sunday, his instincts were proved right.

The Jets announced they had released the eight-year veteran, who was scheduled to earn a $5- million roster bonus after the league year begins tomorrow. He also carried a team-high $14.98-million cap charge for 2014, so by cutting him, the Jets saved $9.5 million in cap space.

Before the official announcement, Cromartie posted a flurry of tweets Sunday afternoon indicating his four-year run in green and white had come to an end.

"I would like 2 thank the Jets organization so much with helpin me grow as leader and a player. S/O 2 my teammates I wish u guys the best,'' wrote Cromartie, who was acquired from the Chargers in March 2010 for a second-round pick in the 2011 draft.

"I would also like to give a big up to The Jets Fan base. Thank you for all the support thru my 4 yr career with you. Thank you again. It's time for a new chapter in my life and now it's time to let my lord and savior lead my steps every step of the way.''

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In 11 months, general manager John Idzik has jettisoned the team's best starting cornerbacks. He traded All-Pro Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay in exchange for picks days before the 2013 draft. And now Cromartie.

The Jets' remaining cornerbacks are Dee Milliner, Kyle Wilson, Ellis Lankster, Darrin Walls and Isaiah Trufant.

"Cro is one of the finest athletes I've ever coached,'' Rex Ryan said in a statement posted on the team's website.

"He was willing to contribute wherever the team needed him to win games, be it defense, special teams or offense. He has a passion and enthusiasm for the game and I wish him and his family the best.''

Money wasn't the only issue affecting Cromartie's long-term status with the Jets. He assumed their top cornerback spot in 2012 after Revis suffered a season-ending ACL injury, but last season a nagging hip injury plagued Cromartie, severely diminishing his effectiveness. Surprisingly, he was selected to his third Pro Bowl after registering three interceptions and 38 tackles.

After meeting with hip specialists earlier this offseason, Cromartie told reporters he didn't need surgery. But his age also is an issue: He turns 30 next month.

Cutting Cromartie was unavoidable for the Jets, given his contract figure, but there was a thought he could return at a cheaper rate. That's still possible, but the team reportedly has its sights set on other cornerback options. At the moment, Aqib Talib, Alterraun Verner and Vontae Davis headline the free agents.

But a new No. 1 cornerback will come at a price. Last week, the Dolphins re-signed Brent Grimes to a four-year, $32-million contract that included $16 million guaranteed. On Saturday, the Packers re-signed cornerback Sam Shields to a four-year, $39-million deal that includes a $12.5-million signing bonus.

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