Desperate to free up salary cap space this offseason, the New York Jets parted ways with five players including the team’s emotional leader Bart Scott. As part of their salary cap purge, New York also released linebacker Calvin Pace, safety Eric Smith and offensive tackle Jason Smith.
The cuts didn’t come as a surprise since former general manager Mike Tannenbaum planned to make these identical roster moves, but he was dismissed from his post in the front office earlier this month. The Jets have now cleared $30.7 million in cap space, giving newly hired general manager John Idzik the necessary flexibility to make the wholesale roster changes that Jets fans have long clamored for.
The Jets also waived injured tight end Josh Baker moving them to $5.7 million under the cap before the new league year begins on March 12.
Bart Scott, Rex Ryan’s right hand man, was famed for his “Can’t Wait!” rant following the Jets shocking win in the 2011 AFC Divisional Playoffs over the New England Patriots. Scott’s productivity has steadily declined the past two seasons and he was set to count $8.7 million against the team’s cap this year. Upon his release, the Jets will get docked $1.5 million in “dead” money, creating an overall savings of $7.2 million.
Second-year linebacker DeMario Davis will likely land the starting role next season with Scott testing the free agent market this offseason.
While Scott hasn’t ruled out a possible return to New York at a reduced salary, the past couple of years in Green and White haven’t exactly been all smiles.
During the 2011 season Scott became disgruntled with his lack of playing time, voicing his displeasure to the coaching staff at being relegated to part-time playing status. The veteran linebacker had several run-ins with the media, getting fined $10,000 for making an obscene gesture towards a photographer immediately following the team’s 8-8 finish two seasons ago.
Scott shed 15 pounds prior to the 2012 season, aiming to return as an every down player, but he suffered a setback in Week 3 sustaining a turf toe injury; effectively ending his streak of 119 consecutive games played.
Pace, another veteran presence in the Jets locker room over the past five seasons, will likely be playing elsewhere in 2013. After signing a six-year $42 million contract during free agency in 2008, Pace amassed 28 sacks and 11 forced fumbles during his half-decade in the Big Apple. Pace was due to count $11.6 million against the cap, but by cutting him the Jets eat $3.0 million in dead money, creating a savings of $8.6 million.
The release of tackle Jason Smith will produce a mega-savings for Gang Green, freeing up $12 million in cap space, allowing the Jets to be buyers during the upcoming free agent period.
Safety Eric Smith was a situational defender last season, but started 36 games throughout his career. Smith is most known for a viscous hit he delivered on former Arizona Cardinal Anquan Boldin, which broke the wide receiver’s jaw and forced him to leave the field on a stretcher. In the final year of his contract, Smith was due $3 million, which will be wiped off the cap.
With the first round of roster cuts complete, there could be several more on the horizon as the Jets look to overhaul their weak depth chart.