NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — The Jets released popular wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery on Thursday, apparently clearing the way for veteran Derrick Mason to sign with the team.

But with Mason still reportedly mulling a contract offer from New York and yesterday’s late twist to the story that Cotchery actually wanted out, Jets fans are left wondering: what went wrong?

“He didn’t want to be here any more,” one source told the New York Daily News, adding Cotchery felt “disrespected and underappreciated.”

“It was tough,” coach Rex Ryan said a few hours after the move. “J-Co wanted to … he asked for a trade or to be released and that’s what happened.”

The Daily News’ Manish Mehta reported that Cotchery, unhappy as the team’s No. 3 receiver and hoping for a contract extension elsewhere, first asked for a trade in February.

“I don’t know how to look at it,” Cotchery told the Newark Star-Ledger’s Jenny Vrentas. “When I became a starter, I performed well as a starter. Last year, I just had a tough deal; a tough deal with a lot of things. I don’t want to get into specifics with a lot of things. Everybody knows I had the injury, but it’s more than just an injury.”

Quarterback Mark Sanchez said that he spoke to Cotchery earlier in the week and tried to change his mind about wanting to leave. Ryan also said he tried to convince him to stay.

“He’s the ultimate teammate, the ultimate competitor,” Sanchez said. “That’s why it hurts to see him leave.”

Earlier in the day, Cotchery said, “I love being a Jet,” and it appeared it was not his idea to leave. Cotchery, the subject of recent trade rumors, said he thought he would be cut if Mason — brought in by the Jets for a visit — passed his physical.

Ryan said the possibility of Mason coming to New York was not a factor in Cotchery leaving. He added that the team was never planning to trade or release Cotchery until the receiver approached them.

“I probably saw it coming for a little while,” Ryan said. “But, I guess I didn’t want to admit it.”

Cotchery, 29, was drafted by New York in the fourth round out of North Carolina State in 2004 and worked his way into the Jets’ starting lineup after a few seasons. Sure-handed and consistent, he has 353 career catches for 4,474 yards and 18 touchdowns.

“My main thing right now is focusing on moving forward,” Cotchery said after the team’s morning walkthrough. “I’m healthy and I’m ready to play football. Sometimes, things don’t work out the way you want them to work out.”

Mason, a free agent who knows Ryan from their days in Baltimore together, met with the Jets on Thursday. He’s 37 and would bring a wealth of experience to the position, which includes Santonio Holmes and the newly signed Plaxico Burress.

“We’ll see,” Ryan said of Mason. “Derrick’s a tremendous football player. He’s a great competitor. I’d like to have Derrick, that’s for sure.”

Mason, who has 924 catches and 66 touchdowns in 14 seasons, would replace Cotchery as the team’s No. 3 receiver. Teams might have been wary of trading for Cotchery because of his uncertain health status; he was on the physically-unable-to-perform list while recovering from offseason back surgery. So, the Jets apparently stopped searching for a trading partner and just cut Cotchery.

“Everyone wants that dream scenario where they want to play their entire career with one team,” Cotchery said. “It happens, but it doesn’t happen that often.”

Was Cotchery right to ask for a trade or release? Be heard in the comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Watch & Listen LIVE