The New York Jets have reportedly agreed to terms with recently released OLB Calvin Pace on a one year deal. While this move may not be entirely popular among Jets fans, bringing Pace back without long term ties is a sensible move for a variety of reasons.
While Pace has seen his pass rushing abilities diminish over the last few seasons due to a decline in overall speed and explosiveness off of the edge, he has remained New York’s best perimeter run defender. Whether you attribute that to a sign of the overall lack of talent at the position or to the idea that Pace can still effectively set the edge on first and second downs, considering the personnel currently on the roster at outside linebacker, it would have been quite the risk for New York to go into the season with just Antwan Barnes, Garrett McIntyre, Ricky Sapp, and one to two rookies at the position.
It is no secret that there is some quality talent at the top of the prospect pool at the outside linebacker position in this year’s draft class. However, the realities of each prospect are similar across the board. Each player has tremendous upside, each with a different variety of dynamic ability. While players like Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo, Ezekiel Ansah, Jarvis Jones, and others all have the potential to develop into high impact players in the future, it is unclear whether or not they will be ready to step into full time roles as rookies. Each should provide help to their respective team’s pass rush in the early stages of their career, but they will all need some time to develop defending the run and consistently setting the edge on first and second downs.
While Pace should not be expected to pull a 180 from last year and suddenly become the player he was in 2009 and 2010, in terms of pass rushing ability, he will provide security against the run, while also giving the Jets the luxury of being patient with an early round outside linebacker. We saw this approach pay dividends last season with 2012 first round pick, Quinton Coples, and the hope for New York will now be to move in a similar direction with a rookie outside linebacker in 2013, whether that pick comes at 9, 13, or at any point later in round 1 or early in round 2.
The release of Pace earlier in the offseason was a necessity due to his inflated salary and the team’s cap issues. Bringing him back on a cheap, one year deal, is an intelligent move and one that will likely take some pressure off of Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman, who will not be faced with the task of prematurely forcing a rookie into a role he may not be ready for from day one.
Depending on how said rookie develops, Pace may be a starter from anywhere between 8-13 games, but look for his role to diminish as the season progresses and the young players become more accustomed to the game at the NFL level. If the development of an early round pick at the position doesn’t progress to the point where he will be ready to take on an expanded role at any point in the first year, there will be no pressure on New York to give him more than he can handle. All in all, another efficient move by new Jets General Manager John Idzik, who was able to bring back an expensive player on a low cost, short term deal.