The Jets released WR Jerricho Cotchery this afternoon. The 29-year-old Cotchery, a fourth-round selection of the Jets back in 2004, played seven seasons for the Green & White.
Cotchery's release comes four days after the Jets added former Giants standout receiver Plaxico Burress in free agency. The Jets reached an agreement with their No. 1 free agent priority — WR Santonio Holmes — last week and announced the signing last Friday. Cotchery, who totaled 41 receptions last season while being hampered by a herniated disk, had offseason back surgery and started training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
Head coach Rex Ryan, who spoke to reporters following today's first full-pads practice of training camp, said it was tough saying goodbye to one of the wideouts he inherited when he arrived in January 2009.
"Jerricho's a tremendous teammate, a guy I had a great deal of respect for," Ryan said. "He was courageous. Anything we needed, the guy did for us."
But the coach said Cotchery asked to be traded or released, and after he said he tried to talk the wide receiver out of his request, the Jets released him today.
Ryan declined to discuss why Cotchery wanted to be let go, telling writers he felt it was more appropriate if Cotchery spoke for himself.
"I just want everybody to know," Ryan said, "what he meant to this team, what he meant to me."
Ryan also said there was nothing new to add on reports about the Jets' interest in former Ravens WR Derrick Mason, although he said of any interest in Mason, "that was not the reason" that Cotchery is no longer a Jet.
In 103 regular-season games with the Jets, Cotchery hauled in 358 catches for 4,514 yards and a 12.6-yard average with 18 TDs. He also appeared in nine postseason contests and started five, totaling 30 receptions for 440 yards (14.7-yard avg.) with two scores.
The man affectionately known as J-Co scored on perhaps his last ever play for the Jets, hauling in a 4-yard pass from Mark Sanchez with 3:07 remaining in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game in January in Pittsburgh. That score sliced the Steelers' lead to just five points, but the Jets would never touch the ball again in the 2010 season.
"Things happen. That's life," Cotchery said at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center just hours before the transaction. "I've been here a long time, so I've seen some things take place where guys don't get to finish their careers here. I thought Chad Pennington would have been here forever, but one night in the preseason he's gone in the hotel.
"That's the business of the NFL, that's the way it works. Right now, my focus is I'm ready to play football and I'm healthy."