Stepping Through the Jets Cuts
Brian Bassett , TheJetsBlog.com
Outside maybe the Josh Baker move yesterday, nothing the Jets did shocked anyone who follows this team closely. Per Jason at NYJetsCap.com (who will be a podcast guest today, noice!) after all the moves that the Jets made yesterday, the team now stands as follows:
Josh Baker — Baker was injured last year in the preseason and rather than extending his cap figure into the next league year, the Jets thought it best to part ways. It doesn’t mean he might not return at some point, but Baker was on the books to earn $555,000 in 2013 and the Jets found the space more valuable.
Calvin Pace — Of all the players released yesterday, Pace was the guy who was still contributing the most to this team. But 55 tackles and three sacks wasn’t the type of production to warrant a return in 2013 for $8.56 million. Pace was never a great pass rusher, and after his first two years with the team, those skills diminished almost entirely. The Jets freeing themselves from the Pace contract was more valuable than his edge setting skills were to the team at this point.
Bart Scott — No matter how fatigued fans might be with Scott at this point, Scott was instrumental in changing the Jets culture in 2009. He was outspoken, brash, and a punishing hitter and was willing to slide back and forth with David Harris as necessary. His first two years with the team helped to make this defense one of the most stifling in the league at stopping the run. Still the $7.15 million his removal from the team was a necessary step as he was most likely on the team in 2012 because no one was interested in trading for the linebacker and the team owed him the cash. His ability to take on lead blockers will remain the legacy that I remember him for … not the outlandish quotes or fights with reporters. Over the last two years, the Jets had to play around Scott’s inability to help out in coverage or in open-field tackles. Teams targeted him and it led to many a broken play for the Jets over the last two years.
Eric Smith — When Eric Smith was on his rookie or even his restricted free agent deal, his special teams role and occasional work as a safety was palatable. Once the Jets re-signed him to that panicked deal after the return from the lockout, it defied logic that he was kept on the deal for more than one year and his cutting saved the Jets $3 million in 2013. Smith played well in the team’s “Big Nickel” role, but Smith was not able to be counted on in coverage much, if at all. One Smith and Leonhard were replaced in 2012, it was palpable how much better the coverage got at the safety spot with additions like Landry and Bell.
Jason Smith — When the Jets traded for Smith over the sunmer, there was never a thought that he would see the $12 million he was going to be due in 2013. The money was a “clean cut” for the Jets and cutting him added no dead money to the cap. In fact, almost half of the Jets 2013 cap “crisis” that was talked ad nauseum was directly attributable to this Monopoly money that the Jets would never have paid Smith even had he become the team’s leading receiver with 1000 yards and 10 TDs in 2012 — remember he was eligible in quite a few plays … :) Smith was a competent extra blocker for the Jets in 2012, so while Smith will look for a chance somewhere to start first most likely, don’t rule out a return to the Jets who could use him as a backup again in 2013 on a vet min type deal, where he was appreciated in the role he took on.
Not Shocking — Not to downplay the value of the GM change, but these were moves that the Jets would have made regardless of who was the team’s GM in late February. This was always the long-term plan for the team to cut these players to free up the space. Now of course the Jets are going to have their hands full in trying to find proper replacements to all the roles that these players filled, but that’s what free agency and the draft could quickly address.
Construction (Still) Ahead — While yesterday sent shockwaves around the league as they looked to divert themselves before the start of the Combine, the Jets still have a lot of wood to chop. Contracts that belong to players like Sione Pouha, Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes and David Harris might be attempted to be restructured to give the team more cap room in 2013. Darrelle Revis is working out in Arizona and is unhappy with the current situation. What will the team do between now and the start of free agency?
3-4 or 4-3? — The Jets have always run a hybrid scheme, but with key pieces like Pouha, Coples, Wilkerson and Harris, the Jets might also consider a change in defensive philosophy. Players like Kenrick Ellis, Demario Davis or even players like Claude Davis or Ricky Sapp could potentially take on more 4-3 duties — or the team would be one or two draftees or journeymen away from a functional 4-3.
Don’t Rule Out Returns — The Jets could feasibly consider bringing back one or more of these players — more on that later today, though.