The NFL's free agency period will begin tomorrow...and for the Jets, it's expected to be the day they release running back Thomas Jones.
It's been an interesting run for Jones in New York.
You might argue with a team releasing its top running back - one of the top backs in the league, in fact, during his tenuire with the team...but all signs point to this being the right move.
Now, I first have to point out there are complications before the move even happens - the heirs to Jones were supposed to be Shonn Greene and Leon Washington...but the Jets are going to end up making Washington a somewhat attractive free agent by reportedly placing a second-round tender on him. That means teams would only have to give the Jets a second-round draft pick if they sign Washington to an offer that the Jets don't match. Of course, Washington's a bit of a gamble anyway after his broken leg last season. (Not unrelated, fullback Tony Richardson is an unrestricted free agent...so there might be upheaval in the Jets' backfield.)
But I never felt he was consistent. I never felt he was unstoppable. I don't think he was as remarkable as his numbers indicate.
To his credit, Jones protected many a Jets lead and helped them run out the clock on quite a few games...but that seems to be microcosmic of his time in New York. He wasn't largely responsible for putting the Jets ahead in those games. He didn't get the Jets down to the goal line oftentimes - he'd get the 1-yard touchdown dive following a big play by someone else. (Not his first season, when he only scored one touchdown...but then again, no one scored that year.) And let me add this was most of the time - I can remember plenty of times Jones couldn't make the one-yard dive on multiple attempts. Other than the fourth down run in San Diego in the playoffs this year that helped the Jets lock up the win and a trip to the AFC Championship Game, Jones was invisible in big spots.
A year ago, he's as big a reason on the field as any that the Jets fell apart at the end of the year (though I, like him, prefer to put most of that blame on Brett Favre). And besides that run in San Diego (and the injury to Greene that made Jones a big [nonproductive] factor in the Indianapolis game), Jones spent most of this post-season on the sideline.
I'm not sure exactly what it was that didn't click for me with Thomas Jones. But I'm not sorry to see him go. Other teams are releasing better running backs. I am aware that Jones was a tremendous influence in the locker room, and that might be the biggest hole he leaves behind on this team. The other holes - the ones made by the offensive line that helped Jones gather such big numbers - will be capably filled.
The Jets just need to act this off-season and make sure Shonn Greene isn't the only running back left on their roster to fill those holes.