The New York Jets released running back Thomas Jones on Friday, as expected, but they didn't rule out re-signing the leader of the NFL's top rushing offense.
The Jets announced earlier in the week that they would let Jones go when the league's free-agency period opened, despite his setting career highs by rushing for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns and helping New York to the AFC Championship Game.
Jones was due a $3 million roster bonus and a $2.8 million base salary.
Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said many things factored into the decision, but he also said the team would consider bringing Jones back -- even if the opportunity seems remote. Shonn Greene, who had the bulk of carries down the stretch, is slated as the starter this season.
"Well, yeah, we certainly would evaluate that," Tannenbaum said of re-signing Jones. "Right now, he's looking at other opportunities, which we anticipated, and we're doing the same. In our business, I would never rule anything out."
A league source told NFL Network's Jason La Canfora that the team is interesting in re-signing the running back at a reduced rate.
Tannenbaum said he spoke to Jones and agent Drew Rosenhaus late in the season and offseason, and he believed the separation was amicable. Tannenbaum added that it was a difficult decision to let go of Jones, saying he was a great leader in the three years that he played in New York since being acquired from the Chicago Bears.
"Sometimes in this business, you have to make the hard decision," Tannenbaum said, "and the hard decision isn't always easy. We just felt like it was the best decision for us."
Safety Kerry Rhodes, whose future with the Jets also was uncertain, will receive his $2 million roster bonus next week and remain in New York, according to Tannenbaum.
Tannenbaum said Friday that he expects Rhodes to participate in the offseason program in a few weeks and play in New York this season and beyond, "unless something changes."
When asked if he anticipated something changing, Tannenbaum laughed and said he didn't.
Rhodes has four years left on his contract, and there was speculation that he could be traded or cut if he refused to restructure his contract. Rhodes was demoted earlier in the season after not seeing eye-to-eye with coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, but he responded with solid play during the team's playoff run.
Rhodes, feeling disrespected, had been noncommittal about whether he would want to return to the team, but he met with his coaches and had a different outlook during the offseason.
"To be honest, I really do want to be here," Rhodes said in an interview with television station SportsNet New York in January. "This is New York. This is the team that gave me my first shot. They gave me the big contract. ... I'm letting the fans know I do want to be here to end my career as a Jet, but sometimes circumstances happen."
Also Friday, the Jets released defensive back Donald Strickland after one injury-plagued season in which he played in just nine games and had two sacks. Strickland dealt with a lingering quadriceps injury, a concussion and a broken pinkie during the season, and he suffered a groin injury in the AFC Championship Game.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.