"I guess, in a way, it was, but it was a business decision," Ellis said Monday on a conference call with New York writers, shortly after his first practice as a member of the New England Patriots. "Basically, (general manager Mike) Tannenbaum told me I was (the) last man on the totem pole."
Ellis, 34, a free agent for the first time in his career, received a one-year offer for the veterans' minimum ($910,000). Stung, he started shopping around and received a one-year proposal from the Patriots and a multiyear offer from an undisclosed team, according to a source.
He opted to sign with the Jets' rival for $4 million in base pay, a source said.
"Yeah, (the Jets) were telling me they wanted me to be back, they wanted me to finish out as a Jet," Ellis said. "When they made the offer, it solidified they didn't want me back."
Ellis said he went back to the Jets because he "wanted to give them another chance," but he was told by management they could give him "only a couple of thousand more."
The Jets have been major players in free agency, but they gave the biggest contracts to wide receiver Santonio Holmes (five years, $50 million) and cornerback Antonio Cromartie (four years, $32 million). They also gave a contract extension to linebacker David Harris (four years, $36 million).
After using their first-round pick on defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets felt Ellis was expendable. Coach Rex Ryan already has anointed Wilkerson as the opening-day starter at Ellis' old position.
"I'm not bitter," said Ellis, the longest-tenured Jet on last season's team. "At first, I was a little bit emotional about it. Once I wrapped my head around it, I just took it for what it was."
General manager Mike Tannenbaum called it one of those "tough decisions."
"Shaun was our longest tenured Jet. I have the greatest amount of respect for him and I will always appreciate his contributions to this team," Tannenbaum said in a statement.
In 11 seasons with the Jets, Ellis always expressed his dislike for the Patriots, who beat them 11 out of 12 times in one stretch. On Monday, Ellis found himself among the his former rivals.
"It was a weird feeling, but once I came in, all the guys greeted me," he said. "They said they were happy for me to be on their team."
Ellis said he chose the Patriots because they're a Super Bowl contender and because they have "one of the best coaches in history." Earlier Monday, Ellis said of his former coach, "I have a lot of respect for the guy. Obviously, I feel like it's not mutual, but I respect him."
Ryan never has said anything derogatory about Ellis, although, in a half-joking way, he said Sunday, "The fact that he chose them, and all that ... there's no way I'm going to wish him well. There's no chance of that. I wish him to be healthy, but I don't want him to play that well."
Looking back on his time in New York, Ellis thanked owner Woody Johnson and the fans.
"I had a lot of fun there, a lot of memories," said Ellis, who has appeared in more playoff games than any player in Jets history. "I just have to start over, and start to build onto the success here."
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.