It wasn’t an easy decision for Robert Saleh.
The ugly side of football — the cuts, the goodbyes, the sudden changes needed to spark a stagnant offense — materialized Tuesday when the Jets released running back Michael Carter in favor of opening additional snaps for rookie Israel Abanikanda, but Saleh said one layer to their decision included the team’s desire to get Carter a fresh start.
“We felt like it wouldn’t be fair for [Carter] to just sit there and rot on the bench,” Saleh said Wednesday before the Jets conducted a walkthrough.
Saleh expected Carter, 24, to get claimed by another team Wednesday.
Carter’s Jets tenure ended after 39 games, including 21 starts, as well as 1,079 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
This year, behind Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook, Carter compiled just eight rushes for 38 yards and 15 receptions for 68 yards.
“He’s gonna get an opportunity and he’s gonna show why he’s capable of it,” Saleh said. “So I’m excited for him to get this fresh start, but releasing him was more about allowing him the opportunity … rather than just be selfish and have him be on our bench.”
While Saleh addressed Jets players about the release “a little bit,” he sensed that they would be disappointed.
It’s something that no one — players or coaches — wants to witness, especially when it involves a key piece of the running back puzzle before Hall’s arrival in 2022 and after his season-ending injury last year.
The Jets also held a players-only meeting Tuesday, and their overlap suggested a continued search for a spark to ignite its 4-5 team included some concrete steps this week.
Saleh acknowledged there would be more changes and hinted at tight end Jeremy Ruckert getting more snaps since he “deserves to play more,” but he wouldn’t divulge specific details.
Abanikanda, a Brooklyn native and fifth-round pick in April, hasn’t appeared in a game this season but flashed potential — specifically with his speed — in the preseason, rushing 12 times for 57 yards against the Panthers and scoring a touchdown against the Browns in the Hall of Fame Game.
Carter accounted for 25 percent of the Jets’ offensive snaps at running back in 2023.
Saleh added that Abanikanda will add to their special teams unit, where Carter only logged 11 snaps this year, too.
“We’ll see what he is,” Saleh said of Abanikanda. “We’re about to find out for sure.”