Thomas Jones has balked at restructuring his contract and the Jets will release the guy who's been their leading rusher the past three seasons come Friday, a league source familiar with the situation told Newsday.
It was an expected move after both sides couldn't come to an agreement with Jones looking at a total salary of $5.8 million in 2010, which includes a $3 million roster bonus due by March 9. He made $900,000 in base salary this past season, but had already pocketed $13.1 million in the first two years of his four-year contract.
Jones, who will turn 32 in August, ran for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns, establishing single-season bests and appearing to break the stereotypiocal myth of a running back's shelf life not lasting much past 30.
However, he broke down near the end of the season, and that trend continued in the playoffs while Shonn Greene essentially took over the reins as the featured back, likely giving the Jets more of a reason to strongly consider letting Jones go in an uncapped year if they weren't able to lower his total salary.
GM Mike Tannenbaum strongly hinted Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine that Jones' days in New York were done, basically thanking him for his services the past three seasons. He ran for 3,833 yards and 28 touchdowns on 931 carries, and caught 74 passes for 472 yards and three TDs in his time wearing a Jets uniform.
"All I can say is we were fortunate we traded for him three years ago," Tannenbaum said Friday during his press conference inside Lucas Oil Stadium. "He has done a lot of great things for us on the field and even more off the field. He’s really been our leader, a tireless worker. He’s a really good player and a better person."
Rex Ryan said earlier this afternoon of Jones: "He’s a great player. There are tough decisions that our organization is going to be faced with. So we have some time, but clearly Thomas is an outstanding player.’’
Besides Greene, the Jets also have Leon Washington, who's recovering from a broken right fibula and will reportedly be tendered at a second-round pick level of $1.759 million. But with Dallas practice squad pickup Chauncey Washington the only other running back on the roster, the Jets will be looking for another back to add to their stable.
Since they fall under that final four rule, unless the Jets lose one of their own free agents and they sign somewhere else for a sizeable sum or they find a respectable veteran back on the cheap, they might be forced to look toward the draft to fill the void left by Jones' departure.