NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Jets cut ties with their top cornerback — and saved millions of dollars under their salary cap.
Antonio Cromartie, who was entering the final season of his four-year deal, was released Sunday. He was scheduled to cost the Jets' cap $14.98 million this season, including a $5 million roster bonus that would have kicked in later this month.
With the move, which was expected, New York created about $9.5 million in cap space. There's a chance the Jets could bring back Cromartie at a lesser salary, unless the three-time Pro Bowl selection chooses to explore free agency. The NFL's free agency period begins Tuesday.
Cromartie expressed appreciation for the team and its fans in a few posts on his Twitter page.
"I would like 2 thank the Jets organization so much with helpin me grow as leader and a player," he wrote.
Cromartie, who will be 30 next month, is coming off perhaps his worst season as he struggled with a hip ailment for most of the year while continuing to play as the Jets' No. 1 cornerback. He still made the Pro Bowl, though, as an alternate.
"I just had a bad year," he said during an interview with NBC Sports Network in January. "That falls heavily on me and no one else."
New York could be in the market for a starting cornerback if the Jets don't re-sign Cromartie because they have just Dee Milliner, the team's top pick last year who struggled through an up-and-down season, and Kyle Wilson, their 2010 first-rounder who has played in more of a nickel back role. They also claimed former Chargers cornerback Johnny Patrick off waivers last week and have backups Darrin Walls and Ellis Lankster.
The Jets have already shown some interest in free agent cornerback Alterraun Verner, who spent his first five seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
The move with Cromartie could be just the first of a few high-profile players being released this offseason by the Jets. Quarterback Mark Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes are also likely to be cut because of high salary cap numbers.