Apparently, today is the day for everyone in TV land to jump ship. S. Epatha Merkerson, has been one of the mainstays on the long running NBC series, “Law & Order” but according to a report from EW, she’ll be exiting stage left after the end of this season. First, Charlie Sheen is leaving”Two and a Half Men,” and now this!

Merkerson broke the news today that she’s ready to leave after appearing on 16 seasons of the show. I know it’s hard for us to realize this, but “Law & Order” has been around for a long time. Seeing the cast photos without her in them will definitely be an awkward and dramatic change. When speaking to EW‘s Michael Ausiello, the actress stated the following regarding her decision to end her run as Lt. Anita Van Buren.

It’s the end of my contract this year, and the storyline has been so perfect. I’ve given it my best for 16 years. It’s time to move on. I’m doing other things and this will be a great way to leave what has been an extraordinary gig.

She also went on to say that she made the decision a while back, mid-season to be exact.

“When I realized my contract was up. And I just looked at the things that I’ve been doing, and the show takes a lot of commitment. And I just feel like I wanted to do some other things.”

From one fellow Michigan native and Wayne State University alum to another, I salute Merkerson for her many years on the show. She was the only thing that I considered watchable after the addition of Anthony Anderson and Jeremy Sisto. Really, look at the set up these days. The two main detectives include the douchebag from Clueless and Teddy from “Hang Time.”

Merkerson joined the show in 1991, and in 16 seasons has appeared on over 380 episodes, more than any other “Law & Order” castmember. We’re not sure when her final air-date is but when we find out we’ll be sure to let you know. Stay tuned.

What do you think about Merkerson’s decision to leave Law & Order? Who should they get to replace her?