By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK — The New York Jets added a familiar face to their receiving group.
Veteran wide receiver Jeremy Kerley was signed Tuesday to a one-year deal, reuniting with the team for which he played his first five NFL seasons.
To make room on the roster, the Jets waived fullback Julian Howsare — leaving them without a player at that position.
New York also announced it signed defensive lineman Lawrence Thomas to the practice squad and released defensive lineman Patrick Gamble from the practice squad.
Kerley adds a veteran presence to a mostly inexperienced receiving group. With 246 catches, the 28-year-old Kerley has the most receptions among the team’s receivers.
Jermaine Kearse, acquired from Seattle last Friday for Sheldon Richardson, is next with 153. After Kerley and Kearse, only two of the other six receivers on the roster have caught a pass in the regular season: Robby Anderson (42) and Charone Peake (19).
Kerley, a fifth-round pick of the Jets out of TCU in 2011, will also likely serve as the primary punt returner.
He fell out of favor in New York’s offense under coordinator Chan Gailey, catching a career-low 16 passes for just 152 yards. In an interview with Sirius XM NFL Radio in June, Kerley called that season “by far my worst year in the league” and made it clear there was no love lost between him and Gailey.
“I absolutely hated the NFL,” Kerley said. “I wasn’t getting any playing time at receiver. I was just strictly punt return. Me and Chan Gailey were always … we didn’t see eye-to-eye. I didn’t have a lot of respect for him. It was probably the same for him.”
Kerley was released in March 2016, signed with Detroit and traded before the season to San Francisco, where he had a career-high 64 catches. The 49ers released him last Saturday, and now he’s back with the team he started with.
He’ll also be playing under a new coordinator in John Morton, who runs a West Coast-style system and should be able to use Kerley as a slot presence and key contributor.
Kerley has 2,892 yards receiving and 12 touchdown catches in his career. He has also averaged 9.1 yards on 155 punt returns, with a touchdown.