NEW YORK — Quinton Coples simply couldn't fit in with Todd Bowles' defense. The New York Jets waived the outside linebacker on Monday, cutting ties with the team's first-round draft pick in 2012.
The move was a surprise despite Coples' diminished role in Bowles' defense. Coples played only five snaps on defense in New York's 24-17 loss at Houston on Sunday after playing just seven against Buffalo in the previous game.
"He just wasn't playing," Bowles said during a conference call. "We didn't have a spot. We weren't playing him and he wasn't getting any time. It was just a business move. It was nothing personal."
When asked if Coples was having any issues with the Jets' coaching staff, Bowles said flatly: "Absolutely not." The coach also said he was not trying to send any type of message to his struggling team by cutting a first-round pick in the midst of the Jets having lost four of their last five games.
Coples was drafted 16th overall — five spots ahead of New England's Chandler Jones — to provide a pass-rushing presence. He had 16 1/2 sacks in three-plus seasons under Rex Ryan, but had none this year. Coples struggled to find a consistent role in Bowles' 3-4 system as a linebacker.
Coples played defensive line in college at North Carolina and during his rookie season with the Jets, but was moved to outside linebacker when New York drafted Sheldon Richardson in 2013. While he played well on the defensive line for a few games last season in place of the injured Muhammad Wilkerson, Coples wasn't much of an option there this season. The Jets have Wilkerson, Richardson, Damon Harrison and rookie Leonard Williams, as well as Leger Douzable and Stephen Bowen.
"I think he was a better inside player than he was an outside player, but we've got a slew of guys inside," Bowles said. "As an outside player, I thought he was OK, but we need a little more speed on the field for the things we're trying to do. He just got caught up in between that 'tweener status for us. That doesn't mean he still can't play. It just means he wasn't a fit for us because of the depth we had inside."
During the offseason, the Jets exercised the $7.8 million fifth-year option on Coples' contract for next year, but guaranteed it for injury only. It became clear that New York was likely to part ways with Coples after this season and avoid having to pay that salary option.
"I think Quinton still has a good future," Bowles said. "He just wasn't playing with us. There were guys that were playing better. It just came to the point where we may need a roster spot later, so we made a decision."
Bowles indicated that the Jets had "something in mind" for the spot cleared by Coples' departure, but declined to elaborate.
"We weren't playing him, and as the scheme evolved, there wasn't much we could do in that regard," Bowles said. "We're trying to do some things going forward and make some business decisions as far as getting our team better, so now was a good time."