Veteran fullback Tony Richardson was released by New York on Sunday, the most surprising of a series of roster moves made one day after the team reached the mandatory 53-player limit.
The move to release 38-year-old Richardson was particularly stunning because coach Rex Ryan repeatedly said the team would go with two fullbacks to help its run-heavy offense. Richardson also was routinely praised as one of the lone leaders on a young unit, with Ryan even stating his case to general manager Mike Tannenbaum to keep the fullback on HBO's "Hard Knocks."
"Each season, there are difficult choices when constructing the 53-man roster and this year is no exception," Tannenbaum said in a statement released by the team. "We appreciate Tony's contributions and leadership over the past two seasons and have nothing but the highest respect for him as a person and as a player."
Richardson's release already had struck a nerve with his now-former teammates.
"Shout out to Tony Richardson," right tackle Damien Woody wrote on his Twitter page. "One of the classiest dudes ever! U will be missed!!!"
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The fullback job now goes to fifth-round draft pick John Conner, whose bone-rattling hits have made him a favorite of Ryan's and helped earn him the nickname, "The Terminator," while at the University of Kentucky.
There is still a chance that Richardson could return after Week 1, when his salary of $855,000 wouldn't be guaranteed for the entire season. The Jets floated out a similar possibility last week when they cut wide receiver Laveranues Coles.
Despite having a new stadium, instituting a personal seat license program and working in an uncapped year, the Jets have made several cost-cutting moves with their personnel since last season. New York cut running back Thomas Jones and left guard Alan Faneca, traded versatile running back Leon Washington to the Seattle Seahawks and didn't re-sign reliable kicker Jay Feely or long snapper James Dearth since March.
The Jets did give All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis a reported four-year, $46 million deal Sunday night. Revis is guaranteed $32 million, according to the New York Daily News.
While the uncertainty of the league's labor situation for next season has factored into the decisions, Ryan has openly said the offense needs leadership. Getting rid of Richardson, who was entering his third season with the Jets, will only exacerbate that need.
Clowney was on the bubble the entire summer, but he appeared safe when he was part of the 53-man roster Saturday night. Tannenbaum even said the team was "moving forward with him." Less than 24 hours later, Clowney was an ex-Jet. He caught 15 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown in 15 games with New York.
Chauncey Washington had an impressive training camp, showing he can both run the ball and hit hard while covering on kickoffs. He was signed off the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad in December.
Turner was a third-round pick out of USC by the Miami Dolphins last year, and he appeared in two games on special teams last season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.