General manager John Idzik and the Jets front office made their first major transactions this offseason when the team released four veterans — LBs Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, S Eric Smith and T Jason Smith — and announced that FB/TE Josh Baker has been waived.
Thus 34 seasons of NFL experience and 19 of wearing the Green & White have been removed from the roster, freeing up undisclosed salary cap space in the process. The news release was posted on our site a short while ago.
All had their ups and downs, but we’ll choose to have some up memories today, especially since three of the four (Scott, Pace and E.Smith) made contributions to the Jets’ ’09 and ’10 charges into the AFC Championship Game.
Scott, of course, was the first free agency acquisition of Rex Ryan after he left the Ravens as Scott’s D-coordinator to become the Jets’ new head coach in 2009. He was always a great trash talker, but while opponents occasionally took exception, his teammates seemed to enjoy being the target of Bart’s barbs, or at least rolled with the punches and definitely looked up to No. 57 in the locker room.
“It takes tremendous energy and cardio to talk and practice at the same time,” Scott said after one Jets practice. “I enjoy talking because it forces me not to be able to breathe, so it helps me get in shape faster.”
On a more serious note, in one of his first one-on-one interviews after signing with the Jets, Scott explained his game.
“I try and be violent every opportunity I get,” he told me then. “I feel football is a game of wills, and if you have two people clashing with each other, it’s going to hurt both players, but I’m willing to take the pain longer than I believe my opponent is, even if it hurts me. And I think that’s something the fans will see — a lot of violent attempts and collisions, but they’ll also see me get up and they’ll see me continue to throw and never waver. No jabs, nothing but power blows.”
The pain got the best of Bart only once as a Jet, last season when his 129-game appearance streak (including playoffs) was snapped and he missed three starts for the first time since 2005 due to his mangled toe. But his drive and determination kept him on the field most of the way and he finished his four-year Jets stay with a good record of playing behind the other team’s line of scrimmage. Despite his toe-jam, he had a team-leading 7.0 tackles for loss last year and 28.5 TFLs total, most on the Jets the past four years.
My partner, Eric Allen, will have a blog on his four-year relationship with the Madbacker up in the “On the Inside with EA” menu shortly.
Calvin’s Five Years
Pace had a modest record of production in the sack department. In his five Jets regular seasons, he had 28 sacks, not DeMarcus Ware numbers yet the most by a Jets linebacker in a five-year span since Mo Lewis a decade earlier.
Pace in fact had Lewis’ franchise single-season mark of 10 sacks in 2000 in his sites when he said on the eve of the 2011 season opener about double-digit sacks, “I think about it, I write it down and look at it. And I think you should do that. Sometimes you make your goals, sometimes you don’t make them. But it is something that I do. I’m not going to say I know, but I do think this is the year that I get to those goals.”
CP didn’t get there, finishing with 4.5 sacks in ’11. But often that’s because he wasn’t asked to.
“If you flip it on the other side, DeMarcus vs. me — I’m not comparing myself to him, but there’s a 99 percent chance that he’s going to be the one rushing and the Cowboys are going to probably drop the other guy in coverage,” he said. “For the Dolphins, Cameron Wake’s the same way.
“If you break down the film, look at all the stuff I do. And I’m cool with that, I really am. But when Rex calls my number, I’m going to try and do everything I can to get there for him.”
And when Pace was turned loose — such as for his three sacks combined of JaMarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski in the 2009 shutout win at Oakland — he was hellacious to watch.
“The Smith Brothers” and J.Baker
Likewise, E.Smith was always ready to pitch in wherever needed, from the time he became the highest compensatory pick ever selected by the Jets (third round, 97th overall in 2006 — he still holds that distinction) through this past year.
Ryan and coordinator Mike Pettine felt so strongly about including him and his knowledge of the defense (not to mention his general knowledge — he has his master’s degree) that they named him a co-starter at safety with LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, a distinction he held every week of the past season (even though he was officially credited with just two starts).
“That’s what we’re going to do, and it’s looking good,” the upbeat Smith said in early August at Cortland, all the while knowing that his career-high 14 starts from the previous year were not likely to be matched. “We’re excited about it. I think it’ll be good for us.”
But what was always good for ST coordinator Mike Westhoff, assistant coach (and new coordinator) Ben Kotwica and the Jets’ specialists was Smitty’s hard-hitting contributions on kick and punt coverage.
“We’re going to free up Eric to be back with us a little bit more,” Westhoff said back then, to which Smith replied: “I don’t know how he can get me back more. I was on everything.”
Mostly, he was on the opponents’ return men. His 105 special-teams tackles from ’06-12 (including playoffs) was easily the most on the Jets in that span.
Regarding Baker, we hardly knew ye. The FB/TE from Northwest Missouri State by way of Delaware (he was a Blue Hen along with Super Bowl MVP-to-be Joe Flacco) had three catches in 2011, one going for a touchdown against the Giants on Christmas Eve, the day before his birthday. In the offseason and preseason, he talked optimistically about fitting into the Jets’ new offense. Then in the third preseason game vs. Carolina, Panthers CB Josh Norman landed hard on his right knee and Baker was gone to IR for the year.
We saved J.Smith, the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, for last here because he was the last of this foursome to arrive, late last August via the “change of scenery” trade for Wayne Hunter with the Rams. He played on offense in every game last season, averaging 16 plays a game on offense, primarily as a third TE, and a handful more per game on special teams.
The quirky, friendly big guy gave the definite impression he was fitting into his new surroundings.
“I’m very happy to be a part of this team,” he said in November. “I believe in what we’re doing here. The guys who deserve credit are Austin, Brandon, Nick, Matt and D’Brickashaw. Those guys are working real hard to make sure this truck goes.”
The truck may have pulled up for loading the possessions that this quartet had stored at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for a while. If it returns with one or two in the future, great, they’d be part of the puzzle moving forward. If not, thanks for stopping by, guys, and providing some good memories in the process. As Ryan said regarding today’s departures:
“They all have the work ethic and attitude that you look for in players and they will always be New York Jets. It was an honor to coach each of these men. They are tremendous people as well as outstanding football players.”
Tags: Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Eric Smith, Jason Smith, John Idzik, Josh Baker, Rex Ryan
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