Mawae's salary in 2006 was just $2.8 million, not a fortune for a five-time Pro Bowl center. Plus, the Jets' cap situation wasn't problematic when they cut Mawae, reinforcing the notion that his release wasn't a cap-related move.
"I really don't believe it was a money issue," said Mawae. "It wasn't a financial deal in my eyes. There is nothing I can see that I did wrong."
So what happened? Why was one of the greatest players in Jets history dumped when he clearly still has a few good years left in him?
Here are a couple of theories.
First off, a Jets source said late last season that the team wasn't going to bring back both Pete Kendall and Mawae. The reason was that the Jets' brass didn't want a pair of undersized starting offensive linemen. Both Kendall and Mawae are 280 pounds, small by modern NFL standards.
You get the sense that the team wants to get bigger and more powerful up front, and having a pair of undersized players on the interior wasn't the way to go. The Jets' running game really struggled last year, and the offensive line got pushed around at times.
Another factor in the release of Mawae could be related to the fact that he's the same age as the Jets' new head coach – Eric Mangini. They are both 35.
You might say, "so what?" -- there are plenty of people who have bosses their age or younger. That is true, but there is more to it than that.
First off, remember, Mawae was with the Jets for Mangini's first tenure with Gang Green during the Bill Parcells administration in the late 1990s. At the time, Mangini wasn't even a position coach. He was basically a glorified gopher, assisting on the defensive side of the ball.
"I remember he used to get coffee for the veteran players," said one former Jet.
So how hard would it be a for a veteran player, like Mawae, who remembers Mangini as a 20-something "kid" trying to carve a niche for himself in the league, to respect him as his head coach.
There is an old expression: "First impressions are lasting ones."
Now with Mawae gone, the only player left from Mangini's first stint with the team is Curtis Martin, and they, from all accounts, have a very, strong relationship. And Martin isn't one to make waves.
Mawae, on the other hand, is very active with the union, and is considered by some to be a clubhouse lawyer.
If the new coaching staff breaks an NFLPA practice rule, the coach or the union might hear about it from Mawae.
This doesn't make Mawae a bad guy, but he might not be the type of older veteran who's a good fit for Mangini's locker room.
Mawae wants a chance to win a Super Bowl during his final few years in the league, and that might be hard to accomplish with a rebuilding Jets club.
"My goal is not to break the bank," said Mawae. "I've done that two times. It's not about the money, but it's about winning a championship. From this point on, I'm going to go to the team that gives me the best chance to win the Super Bowl."
The release of Mawae is a sad day in Jets history. He is a potential Hall-of-Fame player, who had a fantastic Jets career.
He did a lot for the organization, on and off the field.
But his departure might be best for both sides.
So with Mawae now a former Jet, where do the Jets turn for a new center?
Kendall, who filled in for an injured Mawae last year at center, is a possibility.
But a source close to the Jets said recently that the team plans to play him at guard, the position he has played most of his career.
However, if the Jets don't find an adequate replacement for Mawae, they can always make Kendall the center.
Another possibility at center is Norm Katnik, who the team signed off the San Francisco 49ers practice squad last season. He went undrafted out of USC due to his size. He played at around 270 pounds as a senior. But now he's up to around 300 pounds, so he's a more viable NFL prospect.
The Jets could also pick a center high in the draft. While it's unlikely they will go for one in the first round, if Ohio State's Nick Mangold is on the board at the top of the second round, the Jets might jump on him.
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