Alvin Keels announced the move on his Twitter page Wednesday, making Washington a potentially attractive free agent despite the fact he's recovering from a broken right leg that sidelined him for the last nine games of the regular season.
The second-round tender is a one-year deal worth $1.759 million, which gives the Jets the right of first refusal. But it means a team would have to give up only a second-round pick if they sign him to an offer sheet that New York doesn't match.
"I expect there to be a market for Leon during free agency and would say his return to the Jets will be 50-50 at best at this point," Keels tweeted.
Washington made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner after the 2008 season and was a speedy, shifty complement to Jones. He sustained a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula at Oakland in Week 7 last year. Washington had surgery, in which a rod was inserted into the tibia, and was given a timetable of six to 12 months to heal.
In January, Washington said doctors told him he was two months ahead of a normal recovery -- something Keels reiterated Wednesday.
"He will be 100 percent healthy and ready for camp either in N.Y. or elsewhere," Keels tweeted.
Shonn Greene, the team's third-round pick last year, is expected to be the starting running back after a solid second half of the season in which he helped the Jets reach the AFC Championship Game. If Washington leaves, depth would be a concern at a position that was one of the team's greatest strengths.
Jones was informed by the team Monday that it would release him when free agency opens Friday, despite the fact he ran for a career-high 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Also, fullback Tony Richardson will be an unrestricted free agent and might not return, meaning three-quarters of the Jets' regular backfield from last season could be gone.
New York already indicated it planned to place a first- and third-round tender on wide receiver Braylon Edwards, and a second-rounder on backup quarterback Kellen Clemens.
The Jets are also expected to release cornerback Lito Sheppard, who had a disappointing season after being acquired from Philadelphia last year.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press