DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Tone Time is over for the New York Jets.
The Jets parted ways with wide receiver Santonio Holmes on Monday, cutting the talented but injury-plagued playmaker after four seasons.
The move, which had been expected, saves the Jets $8.25 million, which Holmes was due to make as his base salary this season. He was also scheduled to have a $10.75 million cap number, a lofty total for a one-time Super Bowl MVP who has struggled with injuries and inconsistency the last two seasons.
The Jets also released cornerback Antonio Cromartie on Sunday, clearing $17.75 million of salary cap space before the NFL’s free agency period starts Tuesday. New York could also save another $8.3 million if they cut quarterback Mark Sanchez, who missed last season with a shoulder injury.
Holmes, who turned 30 last Monday, had 23 catches — the second-lowest total of his career — for 456 yards and a touchdown in 11 games last season. He missed five games midway through the season with a hamstring injury. Holmes played in just four games in 2012 and was sidelined for several months after suffering a career-threatening foot injury.
In December, Holmes said he would be willing to restructure his contract to remain a member of the Jets, adding that how much of a pay cut he’d be asked to take probably wouldn’t play into his decision to want to stay.
“I appreciate Tone’s contributions over the last four seasons,” coach Rex Ryan said in a statement. “I’ve always admired his knack for making the clutch play. He’s a tremendous competitor who wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line. I wish him nothing but the best.”
Holmes signed a five-year, $45 million deal before the 2011 season after a solid first year with the Jets, who acquired him from Pittsburgh for a fifth-round draft pick. He agreed to restructure his contract in March 2012, when he took a $3.5 million cut to his scheduled base salary of $11 million for last season.
Holmes was a controversial figure at times during his tenure with the Jets, butting heads with Sanchez and the team’s offensive linemen during the 2011 season. In the season finale at Miami, he got into an argument with offensive tackle Wayne Hunter in the huddle and was benched for the rest of the game.
The mercurial wide receiver also had a contentious relationship with the media, keeping his answers short during most group interviews. He inadvertently made headlines last season when he called Carolina’s secondary the Panthers defense’s “weakest link” while trying to credit the unit — but providing bulletin board for an opponent that went out and beat the Jets 30-20.
Holmes was a first-round draft pick by the Steelers out of Ohio State in 2006 and was selected the Super Bowl MVP in his third season after he caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger with 35 seconds left to lead Pittsburgh past Arizona.
He had his best statistical performance the following season with 79 catches for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns. But Holmes was traded to the Jets the following offseason after the Steelers tired of his numerous legal troubles.
Holmes was suspended for his first four games with the Jets for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but quickly became one of the team’s primary playmakers when he returned. He played a key role in three straight wins with big catches late in games, prompting Ryan to label those types of clutch moments as “Tone Time.”
He also helped lead the Jets to their second straight AFC title game appearance, in which they lost to Holmes’ former team.
Holmes has 381 career catches for 5,963 yards and 36 touchdowns in eight NFL seasons.
NOTES: The Jets offered a one-year tender to restricted free agent LB Nick Bellore, who is one of the team’s core special teams’ players. He has until May 2 to accept the offer or negotiate with other teams.
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