The purge of running backs age 30 and older continued Monday as the New York Jets announced they will release Thomas Jones on Friday. Jones joins other standouts LaDanian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, and Jamal Lewis as recent castoffs. Here are some thoughts on the futures of the Jets and Jones; you can see how Jones’ release compares to others approaching the opening of the free-agent market later this week.
Jones became the fourth starting running back from the over-30 crowd to get cut as the Jets decided to save a $3 million signing bonus and a $2.8 million 2010 salary by jettisoning him. A look at the roster shows why the Jets did this, because Shonn Greene shone as a rookie, and Leon Washington is a great complementary back with outstanding speed. But Jones still has a lot more in the tank than most runners his age. He ran for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009, marking his fifth straight season with at least 1,100 yards. That’s an impressive streak for a back who failed to break 700 yards in his first four NFL seasons. Even entering his 11th season, Jones has a lot of tread on his tires, and he can be productive for a team (especially one with a solid offensive line). That makes Jones by far the best option of the four major over-30 running backs recently cut – above Tomlinson, Westbrook, and Lewis. Jones won’t make $6 million in 2010 on the open market at age 32, but he should get a decent contract as a No. 1 or a split-carries back somewhere. If he doesn’t, it’s a crime.