- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Despite the NFL's labor uncertainty, the New York Jets began the process Monday of paring their roster, releasing right tackle Damien Woody and nose tackle Kris Jenkins. The Jets also released linebacker Jason Taylor and defensive end Vernon Gholston, according to league sources.
All four moves were expected. Woody and Jenkins are older, high-salaried players coming off major injuries; Taylor is expected to retire after one mediocre season with the Jets; and Gholston proved to be a draft bust.
The Jets didn't confirm any of the moves.
"I kind of had an inkling this could happen," Woody told ESPNNewYork.com. "I'm no fool. As you get older, you understand the business side. I understand my salary-cap situation, age and injury. I don't have any complaints. My time here was priceless. I was part of something special."
Woody, 33, recovering from surgery on his Achilles tendon, was due to make $3.35 million in 2011. The Jets recently decided to move second-year lineman Vladimir Ducasse to right tackle, an indication that Woody's days were numbered.
The four moves will save the Jets about $13.5 million in 2011 salary and bonuses. That should help them to re-sign some of their many free agents, namely wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards, and possibly cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
Woody started three seasons for the Jets and was an integral part of one of the league's top offensive lines. The Jets are taking a risk by unloading their most experienced lineman, but they evidently feel it's time for Ducasse, a second-round pick, to make his mark. They also could re-sign backup Wayne Hunter, who replaced Woody late in the season, to compete with Ducasse for the starting job.
Woody said the Jets mentioned the possibility of re-signing with them at a later date. He said he has no intention of retiring.
Money and injury also factored into the Jenkins decision. Knee injuries limited him to seven games over the past two seasons, and he was due a $1 million roster bonus on the seventh day of the league year, whenever that is, plus a $3.75 million base salary.
There is a chance that Jenkins, 31, could re-sign, but he obviously would have to take a significant pay cut. He made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Jets after being traded by the Carolina Panthers, but his lack of durability is a major concern. Jenkins is rehabbing in New Jersey, intent on playing somewhere in 2011.
Jenkins, reached by ESPNNewYork.com, said he expected to be cut because of his injury situation and high cap number. He said the Jets didn't offer a restructured contract, but he added that neither side shut the door on a possible return.
"They didn't give me anything etched in stone, but that's not even my first concern," he said. "My first concern is doing my rehab and getting healthy."
Jenkins said his plan is to complete his rehab and make a decision on whether to play in 2011, adding, "I have to be sure. I have a family, and it doesn't do me any good if I'm in a wheelchair in 10 years."
As for Gholston, the Jets waited three years for him to show something -- anything -- but their patience went unrewarded and they finally said goodbye to a disappointing draft bust.
Gholston, chosen sixth overall in the 2008 draft, went three seasons without a sack. It became apparent during the playoffs that the Jets were ready to move on, as Gholston was inactive for all three games.
In three years, Gholston played in 45 games, including five starts, producing only 32 total tackles. He made $21 million in guarantees from his rookie contract, which breaks down to $636,000 per tackle.
Gholston had a $9 million escalator clause in his contract for one sack or forced fumble or fumble recovery, but never got it.
It was a bad decision for the Jets, who usually draft well in the first round. Some of their recent first-round picks were Mark Sanchez, Dustin Keller, Darrelle Revis, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. But they struck out with Gholston, whose lack of passion and football instinct perplexed two coaching staffs.
Former coach Eric Mangini was the driving force behind the Gholston pick, team sources have maintained. The Jets hoped that Gholston would respond to Rex Ryan, a players' coach with a player-friendly defensive system, but it was no use. Ryan moved Gholston back to defensive end before the 2010 season, hoping the change to his natural position would spark something.
Taylor, the NFL's leading active sack artist, always figured to be one-and-done with the team he once loved to hate. Taylor, who stunned two fan bases when he signed with the Jets after openly mocking them for years as a member of the Dolphins, is expected to retire from football to pursue a career in show business. After 14 seasons and 133 career sacks, numbers that probably will land him in the Hall of Fame one day, Taylor has nothing left to prove.
After a bitter divorce with the Dolphins, Taylor went against his initial gut feeling and decided to sign with the Jets because he felt they offered the best chance to play in a Super Bowl -- the only void in his career. He came within one game of that goal, losing the AFC championship in his hometown, Pittsburgh. Afterward, he was emotional as he addressed the media, looking like someone who knew it was over.
Used mostly as a pass-rushing specialist, Taylor recorded five sacks and 35 total tackles in 16 games. He was a full-time player for the first four games, when outside linebacker Calvin Pace was sidelined with a broken foot.
The Jets made a controversial decision to sign Taylor, a longtime nemesis, but they felt he still had some gas in the tank and could improve their fourth-quarter pass rush. As it turned out, his five sacks tied a career low in a 16-game season. Taylor's highlight came Dec. 19 in Pittsburgh, where he tackled running back Mewelde Moore in the end zone for a fourth-quarter safety -- the biggest defensive play in the Jets' season-saving, 22-17 victory.
Taylor made $1.75 million last season, falling two sacks shy of an incentive that would have triggered a $750,000 guarantee for 2011.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter contributed to this report.
Follow Rich Cimini on Twitter: @RichCimini
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