The New York Jets made a handful of long anticipated transactions today, releasing linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott, safety Eric Smith, offensive lineman Jason Smith and waiving tight-end Josh Baker. The moves surprised nobody but marked an important turning of the page and a beginning of the arduous process of rebuilding the roster.
Calvin Pace received a monster contract from the Jets heading into the 2008 season which he never lived up to. He peaked as a pass rusher in 2010 with 8 sacks in 12 games and this memorable take down of that Tom Brady guy in the Jets divisional round victory over New England. He has steadily declined since then and simply lacks the speed or explosiveness to be a full time player at this point of his career. His replacement currently isn’t on the Jets roster as they need to completely remake the outside linebacker position. It is going to take a multifaceted approach to replace Pace and the likely to retire Bryan Thomas, with the Jets spending a draft pick or two at the position along with adding a mid-level free agent. Garret McIntyre is the only outside linebacker on the roster who could see time in a reserve/special teams role after a strong finish to the 2012 season.
Bart Scott was the face of the Rex Ryan era beginning in 2009. The loud-mouth linebacker helped add a needed element of swagger to the team and specifically to the defense, which was the league’s best in 2009. He was a very good two down linebacker in 2009 and 2010 but similar to Pace began to decline rapidly after the New England divisional playoff win and this epic rant (presented in remix version). Demario Davis will get the first crack at replacing him alongside David Harris with Josh Mauga and Nick Bellore filling in as backups, along with a likely mid-round draft pick. Davis should bring some needed speed, athleticism and coverage ability to the inside linebacker position. There has been some chatter about Scott coming back on a lower cost deal but with a rebuilding team, why not let the young players get all the reps they can? David Harris provides enough veteran leadership at the position.
Eric Smith was a special teams ace and quality role player who was overextended in recent years by being made into a starter. He has a poor reputation among the fan-base because of the big plays he allowed throughout the years and had simply worn out his usefulness with the team at this point. Antonio Allen and Josh Bush should be able to bring everything and more that Smith brought these past couple of years. Don’t be surprised to see him land in Buffalo with former Jets Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine (a potential landing spot for Pace also).
Jason Smith served as a means to get Wayne Hunter out of town last summer and was an average player as an extra tight end this season. He had a bloated cap number because of being such a high draft pick. The Jets can find cheaper depth via free agency and the draft. The waiving of Baker was a minor surprise because his skill sets fits well in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense. It wouldn’t be a shock if he came back at some point.
What’s next? The fate of Tim Tebow, Sione Pou’ha and Dustin Keller will likely be decided next. Look for Tebow to be cut, Pou’ha offered a restructured contract, which if he doesn’t accept will lead to his release, and Keller to receive his initial contract offer from the Jets. The Keller situation doesn’t project to be a pretty one between him and the team, and ultimately it wouldn’t be surprising to see him leave if the team doesn’t use the franchise tag on him. Outside of that, both David Harris and Santonio Holmes should be approached about restructuring their deals and early negotiations could begin with Brandon Moore, Yeremiah Bell, and Mike DeVito.