FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Two years after coming in to stabilize the Jets’ young offensive line, Alan Faneca’s run in New York is over.
The Jets released the veteran Pro Bowl left guard Saturday, parting ways with one of the leaders of a unit that paved the way for the league’s top-rushing offense.
“He gave us two incredible years, but along with Woody (Johnson), Rex and I, our job is to make the hard decision, not necessarily the easy one,” general manager Mike Tannenbaum said. “With Alan, we just felt it was time to move on.”
Faneca, who played 10 years in Pittsburgh before signing with New York in 2008, will be replaced by second-round pick Vladimir Ducasse or Matt Slauson, last year’s sixth-round selection.
“The best player will play there,” Tannenbaum said.
The team released the nine-time Pro Bowl selection even though he’s owed $5.2 million in guaranteed salary this year. Faneca’s age — he’s 33 — and slip in production were also likely factors in him being cut.
“We feel good about Matt Slauson and we feel good about Vladimir stepping in and competing for that job,” coach Rex Ryan said. “We never would’ve let Alan go if we didn’t think that one or both of those guys could do the job.”
It was another bold move by the Jets, who also traded away running back Leon Washington to Seattle on Saturday in the latest flurry of activity in a busy offseason for the team. New York has also traded for Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie, signed LaDainian Tomlinson, Jason Taylor and Brodney Pool and released Faneca, Thomas Jones and Jay Feely.
“I think this team is going to be special,” Ryan said, “and we’re out to prove it.”
Still, the move to let go of Faneca is a bit curious, especially since the Jets have been through a similar situation just three years ago. The Jets traded veteran left guard Pete Kendall, in a nasty contract spat, to Washington and went with unproven Adrien Clarke, who struggled mightily.
That led to the Jets signing Faneca to a five-year, $40 million contract, with $21 million in guarantees, which made him then the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history. He helped with the development of center Nick Mangold and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who both made the Pro Bowl last season.
“Alan’s definitely going to play in this league again,” Ryan said. “I have no idea where, but by releasing him now, (it) gives Alan an opportunity to go, quite honestly, where he wants to go. We’re not looking to trade him and send him to a place where he doesn’t want to play. We gave him the respect that he’s due and this allows him to go where he wants to go.”
The 6-foot-4, 332-pound Ducasse was considered by some to be one of the top linemen available in the draft. He has only been playing football for seven years, but was considered an outstanding run blocker who still needs to develop his footwork and technique.
He was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and moved to Stamford, Conn., at age 14. Ducasse was a versatile lineman for the University of Massachusetts and started for three years at left tackle.
“They brought me in to compete,” Ducasse said. “We’ll see how it goes, but I know I’m a guy they can trust and can rely on. Pretty much all I’m thinking about now is competing.”
Slauson played briefly last season after being drafted in the sixth round out of Nebraska.
“In this business, you’ve got to move on, and that’s what we’re staying to do,” Ryan said. “We’re trying to win a Super Bowl. We’re trying to win one this year, just like we go into every season with that in mind. We just thought that the best opportunity we’d have is if we battle with Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse, and let’s see what happens.”
Ryan was also not concerned about changing an offensive line that had started every game together in each of the last two seasons — a rarity in the NFL.
“You stay the same, get better, get worse,” Ryan said. “We’re getting better. That’s why we made the move we made.”