The longest-tenured Jet is moving on.
Center Nick Mangold, 33, took to Twitter on Saturday to announce that his 11-year run with the organization is over.
“As will be announced by the team shortly, my time as a New York Jet has come to an end,” he wrote. “While this is a sad day to leave so many great coaches, teammates and executives, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for me.
“My family and I will always be grateful to Mr. [Woody] Johnson and the entire organization for making me a Jet. I truly want to thank the fans for their amazing support over the past 11 years. It meant a lot to see all the #74 jerseys in the crowd every Sunday. Thank you all for a fantastic 11 years.”
Though Mangold’s announcement came as a shock to many Jets fans, his age, durability and salary raised questions about his status. The seven-time Pro Bowl pick was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 8 when he no longer could play through foot and ankle injuries. Mangold carried a $9.075-million salary-cap hit for the 2017 season.
In the past 10 days, the Jets have cleared $26.575 million against the salary cap after declining to pick up Ryan Clady’s second-year option and releasing offensive linemen Breno Giacomini and Mangold and kicker Nick Folk.
It’s clear the front office’s focus this offseason is to free up cash and get younger.
“Decisions of this magnitude are always difficult, but even more so with someone like Nick who has meant so much to this organization,” general manager Mike Maccagnan was quoted as saying on the team’s website. “We appreciate not just his on-field contributions but the imprint that his mentality and approach to the game leaves on this team.”
Mangold had been a fixture in the Jets’ locker room since he was taken in the first round of the 2006 draft along with D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Last March, left tackle Ferguson surprisingly announced his retirement at age 32. Now the Jets are without their dominant center anchoring the offensive line.
Since 1998, only two players have lined up at center for the Jets: Mangold and Kevin Mawae. Mangold’s backup, Wesley Johnson, appears primed to fill his shoes going forward.
“For the past 11 years, Nick Mangold has been a cornerstone of our team both on and off the field,” Johnson was quoted as saying on the team’s website. “As our Pro Bowl center, Nick consistently demonstrated superior skill and unmatched toughness. Equally important, off the field, Nick exhibited respect, sensitivity and compassion for the causes he supported. It has been a privilege to have known Nick these many years and, for all of us, I say Nick will always be a Jet.”
“A great person, a great player. You could always count on Nick’s smarts, consistency and poise,” coach Todd Bowles added on the site. “Nick’s knowledge of the game and ability to quickly process information made him an invaluable resource to his teammates. He will always mean a lot to everyone in this organization.”
Despite the toll the game has taken on his body, Mangold made it clear during a December interview with Newsday that he had no intention of retiring before the 2017 season.
Though he understood there was a good chance the Jets would release him, Mangold didn’t want to begin his 12th season in a different uniform. Nor did he have any plans of not playing in the NFL.
“Just the fact that it’s been taken away from me, I don’t like that feeling,” Mangold said in that interview. “I still love football. That’s why I want to play. Whether the business side allows me to do that or not, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. But there’s still a deep love of football . . . I still have that fire.”