The trade of the 28-year-old former University of Maryland product was expected after he fell out of favor with Panthers' coach John Fox and his staff for missing off-season workouts and being well above his anticipated playing weight.
"I am thankful for my experiences in Carolina and am looking forward to working with my new teammates and coaches in New York," Jenkins said in a statement.
Jenkins, a second round pick in the 2001 NFL draft by the Panthers, has 290 tackles and 20 1/2 sacks in his seven-year career. Last season, he recorded 2 1/2 sacks and 52 tackles while playing in all 16 games.
"Kris is a productive player who is stout at the point of attack and has the ability to rush the passer," said Jets coach Eric Mangini.
The move clears about $3 million in Carolina's salary cap space and the Panthers are also expected to receive a fifth-round draft pick.