NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the 33-year-old has no plans to retire and will be a hot commodity during free agency. Mangold implied as much when he thanked the organization on Twitter: "While this is a sad day to leave so many great coaches, teammates and executives, I look the forward to seeing what the future holds for me."
"Decisions of this magnitude are always difficult, but even more so with someone like Nick who has meant so much to this organization," general manager Mike Maccagnan explained. "We appreciate not just his on-field contributions, but the imprint that his mentality and approach to the game leaves on this team."
Drafted by the Jets in the same first round as left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson in 2006, Mangold held down the fort in the middle of New York's offensive line for 11 seasons, replacing former All-Pro center Kevin Mawae. Mangold was selected to seven Pro Bowls and earned All-Pro honors in 2009 and 2010 when he acted as the backbone of New York's ground-and-pound offense during its championship game runs. Mangold was one of the Jets' most consistent players during his time there, starting and playing in 154 of a possible 160 regular-season games through 2015.
But an ankle injury sidelined Mangold for the back half of the Jets' dismal 2016 campaign, making him and his $9.075 million cap hit in 2017 expendable. The veteran center will hit the open market with just one year remaining on a seven-year contract in New York.
For New York, Mangold's exit frees up more cap space for a needed reconstruction, but weakens what was one of the Jets' most vulnerable units in 2016. Rapoport added that the Jets will look to backup center Wesley Johnson as Mangold's replacement; Johnson started eight games in Mangold's absence last year and has been with the team since 2015. At left and right tackle, there are gaping vacancies that will need addressing in the shallow free agency pool and draft class.
In two offseasons, the Jets have lost long-tenured stalwarts at left tackle (Ferguson) and center (Mangold). No offseason splash, at quarterback or otherwise, will be able to make up for those exits in the short term. The rebuild in East Rutherford is underway.