Offensive tackle Jon Jansen, a longtime rock of the Washington Redskins, was cut Friday after declining an offer from owner Dan Snyder to retire with the team.
“It hurts,” Jansen said. “If I had been here three, four, five years, it might not have been so emotional, but I’ve been here for a decade and made so many friends. I thought I would have the opportunity to compete during training camp, but I wasn’t in their plans.”
Jansen, 33, came to Washington as the team’s second-round choice in the 1999 draft - the last one before Snyder assumed control - and didn’t miss a snap in practice or a game during his first five seasons.
Injuries marred each of the next five seasons and gradually wore out his body. Jansen suffered a torn Achilles tendon in 2004, broken thumbs in 2005, a torn calf muscle in 2006, a fractured fibula and dislocated ankle in 2007 and a sprained knee last season.
As the injuries and missed playing time accumulated, Jansen fell out of favor with offensive line coach Joe Bugel and head coach Jim Zorn. Zorn benched Jansen last summer in favor of second-year right tackle Stephon Heyer, but Jansen wound up finishing the season as the starter.
Zorn said Jansen, whose game always was more brute strength than finesse, remained a solid run blocker who struggled in pass protection.
“Throughout the offseason, the minicamp and the first [organized team activities], I wanted to solidify the position, and there just wasn’t any change in Jon,” Zorn said. “You don’t throw on every down, but you have to be able to pass block. It wasn’t easy for me to say that to Jon, and I know it wasn’t easy to hear.”
Jansen was out of work for just a few hours. On Friday afternoon, he agreed to a one-year deal at the veteran minimum with the Detroit Lions. The deal is contingent on his passing a physical Monday.
“I’m beside myself with excitement,” said Jansen, who grew up in suburban Detroit and makes his offseason home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Jansen’s old Michigan teammate Jeff Backus, is the Lions’ left tackle. Jansen will compete on the right side with 2008 first-round choice Gosder Cherilus, who struggled as a rookie.
It didn’t escape Jansen’s notice that the Redskins visit Detroit again this season.
“Third week,” he said with a chuckle. “I’ve got it on my calendar.”
The Redskins cut Jansen even though releasing him will cost $1.58 million more against the salary cap than it would have to keep him - a sign of how much Zorn and Bugel wanted to move on.
At right tackle, the club will rely on the 25-year-old Heyer, who arrived as a rookie free agent from Maryland in 2007, and perhaps offseason acquisitions Mike Williams and Jeremy Bridges. Williams, the fourth pick in the 2002 draft, hasn’t played in the NFL since 2005. He has lost more than 30 pounds since signing with Washington on April 24 but on Friday still weighed 383.
He’ll participate in team drills Monday when the Redskins begin their second round of OTAs but still needs to lose another 15 pounds or so. Bridges has been a guard throughout his career with Arizona and Carolina.