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Jets release RB Jones, don't rule out a return

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Jets released running back Thomas Jones, as expected, but didn't rule out a return of the leader of the NFL's top rushing offense.

The Jets announced earlier in the week they would let Jones go Friday 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.

General manager Mike Tannenbaum said many things factored into the decision, but also said the team would consider bringing Jones back — even if the opportunity seems remote. Shonn Greene, who got the bulk of carries down the stretch, is slated as the starter this season.

"Well, yeah, we certainly would evaluate that," Tannenbaum said. "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."

Tannenbaum said he spoke to Jones and agent Drew Rosenhaus late in the season and offseason, and thought the separation was amicable. He added that it was a difficult decision to let go of Jones, saying he was a great leader in the three years he played in New York since being acquired by Chicago.

"Sometimes in this business, you have to make the hard decision," he said, "and the hard decision isn't always easy. We just felt like it was the best decision for us."

The Jets also released defensive back Donald Strickland, who spent one injury-plagued season with the Jets in which he played nine games and had two sacks.

He dealt with a lingering quadriceps injury, a concussion and a broken pinkie during the season, and suffered a groin injury in the AFC championship game.