DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The Jets let Cro go. Again.
For the second time in three years, New York released cornerback Antonio Cromartie, a cost-cutting move that will save the team $8 million in salary cap space.
Cromartie was re-signed last offseason after he spent a year in Arizona, where he played under then-Cardinals defensive coordinator and current Jets coach Todd Bowles.
After reuniting with Darrelle Revis in New York, Cromartie struggled mightily at times at the beginning of the season before having a solid finish.
The move Monday was not surprising because it made financial sense for the Jets, especially because there was no guaranteed money remaining on Cromartie's contract. He signed a four-year contract worth $32 million last March, but only his $7 million salary from last season was guaranteed.
The league's salary cap has not yet been set, but is expected to be between $150 million and $153.4 million, meaning the Jets entered the offseason only about $18 million under that number. New York has several key players scheduled to be free agents, including quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, nose tackle Damon Harrison, and running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, so the release of Cromartie will help.
Cromartie will turn 32 in April and the Jets appear ready to move on, possibly with one of their younger cornerbacks such as Marcus Williams, who led the team with six interceptions, or Dee Milliner, a 2013 first-rounder who has been beset by injuries.
Cromartie had no interceptions for the first time since his rookie season in 2006 with San Diego, with whom he spent his first four seasons.
In a post on Instagram, Cromartie thanked the Jets for bringing him back last year and "for pushing and believing in me to keep me on the field so I could finish strong" after his rough first half of the season. He also called it a "sad day" because he'll miss his fellow defensive backs, including Revis, Williams, Milliner, Buster Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist.
Cromartie also thanked Jets fans for welcoming him back and sticking by him. He asked that they "keep the excitement in the stands because Coach Bowles will have the guys right this upcoming season."
The Jets acquired Cromartie from San Diego in 2010 for a third-round draft pick and he made two Pro Bowls in four seasons with New York while establishing himself as a favorite of then-coach Rex Ryan. But after Cromartie dealt with a nagging hip injury that affected his play, then-GM John Idzik released the cornerback — also in a cost-cutting move — in March 2014.
Cromartie signed a one-year deal with Arizona and played in another Pro Bowl while rejuvenating his career in Bowles' defense.
The Jets, seeking to upgrade their subpar secondary last winter, brought back Cromartie along with Revis to give what Bowles envisioned as a key to his defense. He also served as New York's primary kickoff returner late in the season.
Cromartie was a first-round pick by San Diego out of Florida State in 2006. He has 31 career interceptions and 114 passes defensed.
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