Jets rework Holmes' deal, cut Po'uha

Updated: December 18, 2013, 9:46 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

Creating additional salary-cap room before the start of free agency, the New York Jets on Tuesday released longtime nose tackle Sione Po'uha and restructured the contract of wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

It means Holmes will remain on the team for the 2013 season, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Holmes took a $3.5 million pay cut on his base salary, according to NFLPA records, lowering it to $7.5 million -- all of which was previously guaranteed. If Holmes had refused, it would've made it a tough decision for the Jets. Despite foot surgery last season, he's still their top playmaker. They would've taken an $11.25 million cap hit if they had released him.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie also re-worked his contract, a simple restructuring that saved $4.2 million in cap room, per NFLPA records.

Holmes suffered a Lisfranc foot injury in Week 4 and missed the remaining 12 games, finishing with 20 catches for 272 yards and a touchdown. He recently underwent a second procedure to have surgical screws removed from his foot. He's expected to be back for training camp.

He already has earned $16.3 million on a five-year, $45 million contract he signed before the 2011 season.

Po'uha, 34, plagued by back trouble throughout the season, was due to make $4.9 million in base salary -- and it would have become guaranteed Thursday if he had been on the roster.

The move will create $3.8 million in salary-cap room for the Jets.

The Jets re-signed Po'uha last year to a three-year, $15 million contract on the eve of free agency, expecting him to anchor their 3-4 defense. But he hurt his back in the preseason, severely limiting his play and hurting the overall run defense. The Jets finished 26th against the run.

Po'uha missed four games last season and played only 29 percent of the defensive snaps. He was an enormously popular player in the locker room and his leadership will be missed, but the Jets are in rebuilding mode.

They have overhauled the defensive line in recent years, using first-round picks on Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples. As of now, Po'uha's replacement will be former third-round pick Kenrick Ellis, who has been slow to develop.

Po'uha recorded 38 tackles and one sack last season. He played 106 games for the Jets, who drafted him in the third round in 2005.

If guard Brandon Moore and linebacker Bryan Thomas leave via free agency, the Jets will have no holdovers from the Herm Edwards era, which ended in 2005.

The middle of the Jets' defense took a major hit on Day 1 of free agency. Not only did they cut Po'uha, but they lost tackle Mike DeVito to the Kansas City Chiefs. He signed a three-year, $12.6 million contract late Tuesday, including a $4.2 million signing bonus, according to a source. DeVito and Po'uha are close friends.

The Jets made a strong push to re-sign DeVito, 28, who attracted considerable interest because of his ability as a run defender in 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. He was a three-year starter for the Jets, finishing with 46 tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles.

Rex Ryan's defense is being gutted. Right now, he has only four starters from last year that are under contract and one of those, cornerback Darrelle Revis, could be traded.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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