In an expected-yet-dramatic move, the New York Jets are releasing Nick Mangold, their longest-tenured player and one of the top centers in franchise history. Mangold first made the announcement Saturday on his Twitter account, culminating months of speculation. In rebuilding mode after a 5-11 season, the Jets are dumping older, high-salaried players. The Jets made if official just a short while after Mangold’s announcement.

“For the past 11 years, Nick Mangold has been a cornerstone of our team both on and off the field,” Jets owner Woody Johnson said in a statement. “As our Pro Bowl center, Nick consistently demonstrated superior skill and unmatched toughness. Equally important, off the field, Nick exhibited respect, sensitivity and compassion for the causes he supported. It has been a privilege to have known Nick these many years and, for all of us, I say Nick will always be a Jet.”

Mangold, 33, a first-round pick in 2006, started 164 out of 176 games over an 11-year span. In his prime, he was regarded as one of the best — seven Pro Bowls and two All-Pro selections — but age, salary and injuries factored into the team’s decision to part ways. He missed eight games last season with a severe ankle injury that almost required surgery. He returned after sitting out four games, but he aggravated the injury and was placed on injured reserve for the final four games. At the end of the season, Mangold indicated he had no desire to retire.

Mangold was entering the final year of his contract and was due to make a non-guaranteed $6.1 million. His cap charge was a hefty $9.1 million, which will be cleared in its entirety from the 2017 cap. It wasn’t immediately known if the Jets tried to keep Mangold at a reduced salary.

“A great person, a great player. You could always count on Nick’s smarts, consistency and poise,” coach Todd Bowles said in a statement. “Nick’s knowledge of the game and ability to quickly process information made him an invaluable resource to his teammates. He will always mean a lot to everyone in this organization.”

Wesley Johnson is the favorite to replace Mangold, although it’s possible the Jets could seek an upgrade in free agency or the draft. Johnson has only nine career starts; eight of them came last season. Since 1998, the Jets have had only two full-time centers — Hall of Fame finalist Kevin Mawae (through 2005) and Mangold. It has been one of the most stable positions in team history.

Mangold’s time with the Jets spanned three coaches — Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan and Bowles. He and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson arrived as first-round picks in 2006, becoming building blocks for what would become one of the NFL’s top offensive lines from 2008 to 2011.

“Decisions of this magnitude are always difficult, but even more so with someone like Nick who has meant so much to this organization,” general manager Mike Maccagnan said in a statement. “We appreciate not just his on-field contributions, but the imprint that his mentality and approach to the game leaves on this team.”

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