The Jets then came to terms with Jenkins on a new five-year contract worth $35 million, including $20 million in guaranteed money.
The deal on Friday ends a tumultuous year for Jenkins. He was also placed on the trading block last year and had angered the coaching staff for being overweight and missing offseason workouts
Jenkins played in all 16 games last season, but had only 2½ sacks. Near the end of the season he said he wasn't sure if he wanted to return to Carolina.
At 6-foot-4 and listed at 349 pounds, Jenkins could move to nose tackle in the Jets' 3-4 defensive scheme.
"Kris is extremely excited to be going to New York," said Jenkins' agent, Tony Paige. "He leaves Carolina with no malice or anything like that and is grateful they drafted him and gave him a chance to play. He had a lot of great memories there."
The Panthers could turn to the draft or free agency to replace Jenkins, who was Carolina's second-round pick in 2001.
With free agency beginning Friday, the Panthers have shown interest in Atlanta defensive tackle Rod Coleman. Damione Lewis, who has been a backup defensive tackle with Carolina, recently re-signed and could move into the starting lineup.
By sending Jenkins to New York, the Panthers avoid paying a $1 million roster bonus and clear about $3 million in salary-cap space. Jenkins was scheduled to make about $6.7 million in base salary over the next two seasons under his old contract.
The Jets hope Jenkins can regain the form that made him one of the NFL's top defensive tackles before missing most of the 2004 and '05 seasons with injuries.
Jenkins came back in 2006 and made the Pro Bowl, but his constant weight problems disappointed the coaching staff.
After the Panthers failed to trade him during last year's draft, Jenkins was the only starter to miss June's voluntary workouts and his agent said he wanted a new contract.
The 28-year-old Jenkins didn't get a new deal, but he showed up at training camp and was the best player on a disappointing defensive line. Still, Jenkins irritated some in the organization when he questioned his teammates' passion after a loss to Tampa Bay early in the season.
Paige said he was allowed to try to broker a trade for Jenkins since the end of the season. He said Cincinnati, Buffalo and Denver also showed interest.
"We are glad to finally get it done," Paige said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.