The Detroit Lions are making the tough decision today to part ways with veteran receiver Nate Burleson.
The move saves the team $5.5 million toward the 2014 salary cap, but leaves them down a big leader in the locker room.
"I had a message on my phone this morning to call Martin Mayhew back and I knew there were only a couple options," Burleson told detroitlions.com. "I gave him a call back and he told me he appreciated what I did for the team on and off the field and the kind of pride I instilled. He was just thankful for what I meant to the team."
Burleson was entering the final year of a five-year, $25 million contract he signed in 2010. A consummate team player, Burleson renegotiated his deal a few times over the life of the deal to give the Lions more cap room.
He missed six games last year after a late-night car crash left him with a broken forearm. He still finished catching 39 passes for 461 yards and one touchdown in nine games.
Burleson missed 17 games total the last two seasons because of the forearm and a broken leg.
In four seasons with the Lions Burleson recorded 194 receptions for 2,083 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Speaking to detroitlions.com back in December, Burleson knew this was a likely scenario, but said he was willing to reduce his salary to stay in Detroit.
"I'm willing to (take a pay cut) regardless," he said. "I put that out there early. That's pretty much the only option. Take less money or release me. I'm willing to do that.
"I'll definitely renegotiate and try to outwork my contract, just because I love this team. But at the end of the day I don't control any of that, especially with a new (coach) coming in."
Burleson said his agent has gotten interest from a couple other teams and he’ll explore all options. He said coming back to Detroit didn't seem like an option at this point.
"No. 1 is situation," Burleson said. "Do they have talent at the wide receiver position that I can fit in with. No. 2, are they a team that can make a run at the playoffs. Those are my two factors.
"How do I fit in with the offense and can it be productive and do we have a chance to win. At this point in my career, not needing to play for the money, I’d rather stack up some victories and have a chance for a post season."
Burleson did reiterate his love for the organization, the fan base and the state of Michigan, however.
The last 4 years in Michigan been incredible! MY TEAM, FANS & the CITY will missed more than you know! Thank You! Love Detroit! #LionBlood— Nathaniel E Burleson (@Nate13Burleson) February 13, 2014