Lee, the Jets' first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season. New York could have kept the linebacker under contract for the 2020 campaign at $9.5 million, which wasn't fully guaranteed until next March.
The Jets' decision to pass on Lee's option likely involved the signing of inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. Lee is projected to lose his starting job to Mosley, who signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the franchise this off-season. Mosley and returning starter Avery Williamson are the top candidates to start at inside linebacker, pushing Lee to a backup role if he remains on the team.
The Jets have been attempting to trade Lee, according to ESPN. If a deal isn't found for the Ohio State product, the Jets may find a role for him in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' scheme.
Lee has a $3.25 million cap hit this season and has a $1.8 million base salary.
Lee had 74 total tackles, three interceptions, five passes defensed and one defensive touchdown in 12 games (12 starts) last season. He has recorded 241 combined tackles, 4.0 sacks, three picks, 11 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one defensive score in three NFL seasons.