NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Jets have parted ways with linebacker Bryan Thomas, their longest-tenured player.
Thomas was released Saturday, a day before the team's game at Miami, to make room on the roster for cornerback Donnie Fletcher, who was signed off the practice squad.
The Jets also announced that tight end Dustin Keller and fullback John Conner are out for the game with injuries and would not travel with the team Saturday.
Thomas was the team's first-round draft pick in 2002 and has been a key part of the Jets' defense, mostly as a solid run-stuffing linebacker. He missed most of last season with a torn left Achilles tendon, but was re-signed to a one-year, $900,000 contract in March.
Thomas has been dealing with a hamstring injury the last two weeks, and was listed as doubtful for the Jets' game at Miami on Sunday. He was replaced in the starting defense by Garrett McIntyre, who had two sacks last Sunday at Pittsburgh.
There's a good chance Thomas could be back with the team because he's still dealing with an injury and is a vested veteran with a guaranteed salary and is not subject to waivers. Backup cornerback Ellis Lankster is dealing with a sore back and unlikely to play, forcing the Jets to elevate Fletcher for depth in the secondary.
By cutting the veteran Thomas, the Jets avoided having to subject a younger player to waivers.
Thomas, drafted as a defensive end out of UAB, was switched to outside linebacker in New York and has 31 sacks, seven forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries in his career. He has ranks second in franchise history with 11 playoff appearances.
Keller was listed as questionable Friday as he recovers from a right hamstring injury. He also missed the game against the Steelers, and the Jets struggled on offense without him. Jeff Cumberland will start in his place.
Keller was initially injured in the Jets' second preseason game against Carolina, and then tweaked it again during practice a few days before New York traveled to Pittsburgh.
Conner was listed as doubtful for the game against the Dolphins after re-injuring his right knee against the Steelers. He sprained the medial collateral ligament in the knee in the season opener against Buffalo. Conner will likely be replaced by tight end Konrad Reuland when the Jets use a fullback in their offense.
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