The Jets declined the team options Tuesday on three defensive backups — nose tackle Mike Pennel, linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and safety Terrence Brooks.
The moves created about $5.5 million in salary-cap space, leaving the Jets a little more than $100 million under the cap. They also have a league-low 39 players under contract, so there is a lot of work to be done in free agency.
The three players were not seen as fits in new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ defense.
Tuesday was the deadline for the Jets to decide on Pennel’s $1 million option bonus. He would have made $2.25 million in salary in 2019 if they had kept him.
Brooks, also a valuable special-teams contributor, would have received a $200,000 option bonus and was scheduled to make $1.6 million in 2019.
Pierre-Louis had a $750,000 option bonus. The Jets save $2 million by moving on from him. All three will become free agents on March 13 when the NFL signing period begins.
With veteran defensive tackle Steve McLendon also a free agent, the Jets now are thin at the position — with just Leonard Williams, Nathan Shepherd and Foley Fatukasi.
A number of draft specialists, including Mel Kiper Jr., have linked the Jets with Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams with their No. 3 overall pick.