The New York Jets released veteran inside linebacker Bart Scott this afternoon in a salary cap-related move. Ever since the Buffalo Bills hired defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, nearly every defensive free agent of the Jets has been linked to the team in one way or another. But would the 32-year-old ‘backer be a good fit for the Bills’ new-look defense?
Scott joined the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2002, a year after Pettine joined the Ravens’ coaching staff. He served as a weakside inside linebacker next to Ray Lewis in Baltimore's 3-4 defensive alignment for seven seasons before following head coach Rex Ryan and Pettine to the New York Jets in 2009.
Scott was a full-time starter on the Jets’ defense during the 2009-10 seasons, but began to get phased out of the defensive scheme in 2011, when he played just 676 snaps. The 6’2” 242 pounder recorded 60 tackles and 2.5 sacks in his limited role during the 2012 season, but still served as a vocal leader of the team.
Pettine had this to say about Scott's impact on the defense by having knowledge of the system:
"The guys from the previous system that we brought between (Jim) Leonhard, Bart (Scott) and Marques Douglas, they’ve all done a tremendous job of spreading that knowledge and getting those guys to understand the system, the subtleties and nuances of it. Then also, how we practice, the whole practice tempo, how we approach things. The learning curve has been accelerated and those three guys have been a big part of it."
While Scott certainly knows the ins and outs of Pettine’s defensive philosophy after working with him for the past 11 years, it wouldn’t be a wise move by the Bills to acquire him this offseason. The team appears to be in the process of a youth movement on defense following the releases of Nick Barnett, George Wilson and Terrence McGee over the past week.
According to ProFootballFocus’ Signature Statistics (Subscription Required), Scott graded out as the league’s 18th ranked overall inside linebacker during the 2012 season. He ranked 23rd both in pass coverage and run defense, while missing 11 tackles throughout the year. He ranked as PFF's 51st most efficient tackler among inside linebackers (out of 53 qualifying players) after missing a tackle every 6.6 attempts.
When dropping into coverage, opposing quarterbacks posted a gaudy 110.4 passer rating when targeting him. While he recorded 30 “stops” against the run, Scott is an aging player and his skills have been diminishing over the past few seasons.
Kelvin Sheppard was drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft when the team was in the process of transitioning to a 3-4 defense, and projects well to the weakside inside linebacker position that Scott plays. Sheppard is just 25 years old, and has improved in each of the seasons he’s played with the Bills.
While Scott is an attractive name, he’s a shell of his former self and shouldn’t be relied on by a team to contribute as a full-time starter. He’s a role player with a limited ceiling at this stage in his career, and the Bills would be best off moving in another direction as they begin to shape their defense for the future.