Looking Ahead: Jets 2013 Linebackers

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We’re take a look at each position on the Jets roster and take a look ahead at what the Jets might expect and might need to address this coming offseason.  Up next, the Linebackers.

Coming Off The Books

OLB Bryan Thomas — Aside from good games against Seattle and Arizona, Thomas’s 2012 season was unremarkable. Thomas has been with the team since 2002 and he’s had a long and productive run, but it seems as if the Jets are ready to move on and Thomas has openly shared thoughts of retiring.  The Jets cut and re-signed him during the course of the season and Thomas also had a domestic violence arrest that will hang over his head this offseason.  Do not re-sign.

DE/OLB Calvin Pace, ILB Bart Scott — While they aren’t free agents, they won’t be back with the team on their current deals, that much was made clear last week.  Pace might be able to provide more production than Scott can at this point, but if the Jets wanted to go down that road, veteran minimum is the name of the game.  Cut, then try to convince Pace to re-sign at a veteran minimum deal.

ILB Josh Mauga — Mauga was lost for the season in 2012 with a torn pectoral muscle, but should be back to compete for special teams and defensive work in 2013.  Mauga played passably in backup work to Bart Scott during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and I could see him continuing in that role in 2013.  Of course the Jets new GM might want to allow for open competition at the ILB spot, so look if he doesn’t work into some first team rotations this spring.  Gauge need on how best to re-sign this RFA and compete for specials and defensive work.

On The Books

LB Nick Bellore  — Bellore has been a great contributor to the Jets on special teams and he’s carved out a roster spot by playing well in that phase.  With the likely removal of Eric Smith, could Bellore’s importance increase on specials even more?  The Jets like Bellore enough that they tried to convert him to fullback for a little while.  It’s hard to project how much of a role he could have on defense but with the removal of Bart Scott from the equation, it will open possibilities.  Ryan has been known to reward his special teamers if they play well there first. Compete for a role on defense but specials still come first.

ILB Demario Davis – Davis is already expected to be the team’s starter in 2013, based on reports of the cutting of Bart Scott.  He saw limited time on defense in 2012, but he didn’t do anything to dissuade the thought that he could project into a larger role.  Davis will need to get some on-the-job training and might move around with David Harris for the Mike early on to make things easier for the projected new starter.  Increase amount of playing time.

ILB David Harris — Harris has been a solid player for the Jets and while he’s been a key part in the team’s ability to run an effective run defense, at a $13.5 million cap figure one has to wonder about whether or not the valuation for a player like Harris is a little out of whack.  NYJetsCap had a good proposal on how to handle the matter.  PFF has ranked him well down the list for ILBs across the league making a lot less for better production.  There is the thought that Harris has suffered the last two years by being paired with Bart Scott as we’ve seen him decline … could Harris have a resurgence in productivity in 2013?  Try to restructure his massive cap numbers with some extra money for Harris through guarantees, but by making him easily cut by the Jets in 2015.

OLB Garrett McIntyre — McIntyre saw a good amount of time in 2012, but not much of it was very good.  McIntyre neither excelled in stopping the run nor defending the pass on the balance of the 2012 season, and it’s made him an expendable piece this offseason.  McIntyre might have been a nice “hold the fort” player for the team but moving forward the best the Jets should expect from him would be a backup role and becoming a core special teams player … more than that seems like it would be counterproductive for the Jets.  Allow him to compete for a job in 2013.

OLB Ricky Sapp – Right now, the door is wide open for Ricky Sapp, but the question is whether or not Sapp can take advantage.  Both outside linebackers for the Jets might not be back in 2013 and his biggest competition on the roster didn’t play well over the course of the 2012 season.  Sapp must prepare to compete against the unknown, be it a veteran free agent or a priority pick in the NFL Draft.  The Jets seem to have a real affinity for Sapp, but the question here is have they been “hiding” him in plain sight to now move into a larger role in 2013?  Compete for one of the starting OLB spots against potential spring acquisitions.

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