In a league of "What have you done for me lately?" Thomas Jones found out the harsh reality of the NFL the hard way.
Despite rushing for a career-high 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009 - his third straight 1,000-yard season with the Jets - Jones, 31, was officially shown the door after declining to rework his contract for next season.
The Jets Monday informed Jones that they will release him Friday, the first day of the league year for the 2010 season. The Jets also will release cornerback Lito Sheppard, acquired last year in a trade with the Eagles.
"Thomas joined us three years ago and has been a productive, passionate leader both on and off the field who has served as a positive influence for our younger players," general manager Mike Tannenbaum said in a statement. "We were fortunate to acquire Thomas and wish him the best."
The Jets acquired Jones from the Bears for a second-round pick before the 2007 season. He signed a four-year, $20-million deal, in which he made $13.1 million the first two years. He was due to earn a $3-million roster bonus next Tuesday, plus $2.8 million in base salary.
But with Shonn Greene emerging as the Jets' starting running back in the playoffs, and with Jones' play slipping in the postseason, the Jets opted to cut ties with Jones.
Coach Rex Ryan said "this is one of the tough decisions we had to make for our organization."
Ryan gave Jones one day off from practice each week toward the end of the season in a bid to keep him fresh. But Jones did not perform as well as expected in postseason, and Greene ran for more than 100 yards in each of the Jets' first two playoff games. Jones, who averaged 4.2 yards per carry in the regular season, averaged only 2.6 yards in the playoffs.
"When I got here, Thomas immediately became one of my guys," Ryan said. "He had one of his best years last season - might have been his best. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a player and a person."
Sheppard's release comes as no surprise. The Jets owed him a $10-million roster bonus that would have triggered another four-year contract had he remained. Sheppard, 28, lost his starting job in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts and played only sparingly.