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MailTribune.com
  • Jets release cornerback Cromartie, save $9.5 million

  • NEW YORK — The New York Jets cut ties with their top cornerback — and saved millions of dollars under their salary cap.
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  • NEW YORK — The New York Jets cut ties with their top cornerback — and saved millions of dollars under their salary cap.
    Antonio Cromartie, who was entering the final season of his four-year deal, was released Sunday. He was scheduled to cost the Jets' cap $14.98 million this season, including a $5 million roster bonus that would have kicked in later this month.
    With the move, which was expected, New York created about $9.5 million in cap space. There's a chance the Jets could bring back Cromartie at a lesser salary, unless the three-time Pro Bowl selection chooses to explore free agency. The NFL's free agency period begins Tuesday.
    Cromartie expressed appreciation for the team and its fans in a few posts on his Twitter page.
    "I would like 2 thank the Jets organization so much with helpin me grow as leader and a player," he wrote.
    Cromartie, who will be 30 next month, is coming off perhaps his worst season as he struggled with a hip ailment for most of the year while continuing to play as the Jets' No. 1 cornerback. He still made the Pro Bowl, though, as an alternate.
    "I just had a bad year," he said during an interview with NBC Sports Network in January. "That falls heavily on me and no one else."
    New York could be in the market for a starting cornerback if the Jets don't re-sign Cromartie because they have just Dee Milliner, the team's top pick last year who struggled through an up-and-down season, and Kyle Wilson, their 2010 first-rounder who has played in more of a nickel back role. They also claimed former Chargers cornerback Johnny Patrick off waivers last week and have backups Darrin Walls and Ellis Lankster.
    The Jets have already shown some interest in free agent cornerback Alterraun Verner, who spent his first five seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
    The move with Cromartie could be just the first of a few high-profile players being released this offseason by the Jets. Quarterback Mark Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes are also likely to be cut because of high salary cap numbers.
    Vikings
    At Minneapolis, the Minnesota Vikings have taken another one of their priority free agents off the market before it opens, agreeing to terms on a five-year contract with defensive end Everson Griffen that features $20 million guaranteed and a maximum value of $42.5 million.
    The NFL free-agent signing period starts Tuesday.
    The Vikings also agreed to terms on a one-year contract with middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, according to another person with direct knowledge of that deal who spoke to the AP on Sunday on condition of anonymity because the Vikings haven't confirmed the agreement. Brinkley played for the Arizona Cardinals last season.
    Two days ago, the Vikings reached a two-year deal with quarterback Matt Cassel worth as much as $10 million.
    The 26-year-old Griffen, a fourth-round draft pick from USC in 2010, has an opening to become a full-time player with the departure of four-time All-Pro Jared Allen, who will officially become a free agent on Tuesday and won't be re-signed. Allen and Brian Robison have been the starting defensive ends for almost Griffen's entire NFL career, though he has seen extensive action as a situational pass rusher and on special teams.
    Cardinals
    At Phoenix, running back Rashard Mendenhall is retiring from the NFL at the age of 26.
    Agent Mike McCartney confirmed via Twitter on Sunday that Mendenhall had decided to end his playing career after six NFL seasons, all but one of them with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
    Mendenhall, the Steelers' first-round draft pick and 23rd overall selection out of Illinois in 2008, gained 4,326 career yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry.
    After signing a free-agent contract with Arizona, he was hampered by a toe injury much of last season and was most effective down the stretch. Mendenhall finished with a team-high 687 yards in 217 carries.
    Mendenhall had consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the Steelers in 2009 and 2010. A knee injury limited him to six games with Pittsburgh in 2012.
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