According to the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta:
Sources told the Daily News Thursday that Gang Green’s plan is to cut the loquacious linebacker [Scott], along with Calvin Pace — another mainstay of the linebacking corps — and offensive tackle Jason Smith in the coming weeks before free agency begins March 12. The moves would save the Jets $27.7 million in cap space for next season.
Twenty-seven million dollars is a lot of cheddar, and it's money the Jets desperately need. According to ESPN's John Clayton back in January, New York enters the 2013 season $19.4 million over the cap.
These proposed moves would allow the Jets to get under the cap, which is imperative, given the team's many needs.
It's really no surprise that these two players are on the chopping block, considering their age and downturn in production. But it also creates a tremendous void, as Scott and Pace were major players for Ryan's defense the past four years.
So what can new general manager John Idzik do to fill this void?
According to Mehta's report, the Jets are prepared to let last year's third-round pick, DeMario Davis, take over for Scott in the middle. He'll play opposite David Harris, and the Jets will feature a young, fast duo in the middle of their defense.
Nick Bellore, the team's special-teams ace, will back up Harris, just like he did in 2012, but New York would be wise to bring in another young linebacker via the draft for depth.
The Jets won't likely look for in inside linebacker in the early rounds, so here are a few possible players New York might target in the latter rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft:
- Nico Johnson, Alabama: Johnson lacks elite athleticism and speed, but he's still a competent inside linebacker against the run and will likely be available after Round 4.
- Vince Williams, Florida State: Williams isn't a speedy linebacker. He's more of a thumper, and though he didn't put up staggering numbers at FSU, he showed up well at the Senior Bowl and will likely be available after Round 5.
- Michael Mauti, Penn State: If not for a knee injury (Mauti's third during his time at Penn State), Mauti would likely be taken in Round 2 or 3. His medical history will be a huge red flag, but there's no doubt this kid can play. Mauti will likely be available in the final two rounds of the draft.
While the Jets already have a backup plan for Scott, the team's options to replace Pace are limitless.
Well, except for that whole money thing.
Ryan's defense has struggled to get consistent pressure from the outside linebacker position for the past two seasons, and the entire defense has struggled as a result. Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis are two of the league's top cornerbacks, but imagine how much better they'd be with a devastating pass-rusher.
There are a few free agents the Jets might target, though it would seem a foolish notion to pay through the nose, given the pass-rushing talent in this year's draft class. Here are some veterans Idzik might consider signing:
- Paul Kruger, Baltimore Ravens: Kruger is coming off a monster year for the Ravens—one in which he compiled nine sacks during the regular season and another 4.5 in the postseason—and he won't be cheap. That said, there's no doubt he'd bring some much-needed firepower to Ryan's squad.
- Anthony Spencer, Dallas Cowboys: Spencer had his best year as a pro in 2012, logging 11 sacks. He was Dallas' best defender last year, and like Kruger, he'll demand top dollar, meaning it will be a surprise to see him end up in a Jets uniform.
- Connor Barwin, Houston Texans: Baldwin is coming off a sub-par season—one in which he only registered three sacks. That said, he's a competent pass-rusher who will likely be much cheaper to sign than the previous two players on this list.
- Victor Butler, Dallas Cowboys: Butler has never emerged as a consistent threat, but he's showed flashes. In his four seasons with Dallas, Butler tallied 11 sacks and five forced fumbles. He'll be much cheaper to sign than the others on this list.
Rather than spend money on free agents, I expect Idzik to explore his options in this year's draft.
The first couple of rounds are loaded with pass-rushers, and it shouldn't shock anyone if the Jets take one with the No. 9 overall pick.
Here are a few players the Jets could select with that pick in Round 1:
- Jarvis Jones, Georgia: Jones led the nation with 14.5 sacks in 2012, and if not for a medical condition called spinal stenosis, he'd be a lock for a top-five pick.
- Ezekiel Ansah, BYU: A raw prospect, Ansah is a boom or bust-type player. But if he booms, he could be the steal of the draft.
- Barkevious Mingo, LSU: Ansah is raw, but Mingo is light and raw. At 6'5" and 240 lbs., Mingo weighs in 34 lbs. lighter than Ansah. He's electric on the edge, but his tendency to get eaten up by athletic tackles makes him more of a risk.
The Jets have swung and missed on a number of pass-rushers over the past few years, so it'll be really interesting to see what direction the team takes this spring.
The Jets would absolutely make the right decision to let Scott and Pace walk. These two men are both on the wrong side of 30 and have both lost a step, and the money New York will save, should it release them, is substantial.
The NFL is a young man's game, and it's about time the Jets brought in some new blood to spark what was once one of the league's most-feared defenses.
With some savvy moves by Idzik, the Jets will be much more formidable on the defensive side of the ball in 2013 than they were last season.
One thing's for certain: The media machine in New York will have plenty to discuss in the coming months.
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