Breaking Down Bart Scott: Does Loud-Mouthed LB Still Have Game?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystFebruary 20, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 12:  Bart Scott #57 of the New York Jets reacts the Miami Dolphins at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 12, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The New York Jets purged roughly $30 million (per ESPN) in salary from their roster on Tuesday, and one of the team's cap casualties was a player who has gone from free-agent defensive centerpiece to defensive liability.

Now linebacker Bart Scott is a player without a team, and at this point, it's fair to wonder if the 32-year-old has come to the end of his NFL career.

It certainly didn't appear that things were going to turn out this way for Scott with Gang Green back in 2009.

Back then, Scott was supposed to be the focal point of new head coach Rex Ryan's defense in New York. This was a player that Ryan and the Jets wanted so badly that they literally pitched him a huge deal minutes after free agency opened. A player that Ryan raved about at the time, according to ESPN:

"We added The Mad Backer today," Ryan said. "What you've seen him do and accomplish in Baltimore, I think is just the tip of the iceberg. ... He's called The Mad Backer because he basically hates the guys in the other color jerseys."

However, things didn't work out as planned for Scott in New York. Granted, the Jets made the AFC Championship Game in Scott's first two seasons with the team, but his numbers steadily got worse as the years passed, and it seemed that Scott made a much bigger impact with his mouth than he did on the gridiron.

Things bottomed out in 2012.

Battling a toe injury for much of the season, Scott recorded his lowest tackle total since 2004. Among 35 inside linebackers ranked by Pro Football Focus last season, only two had a worse grade in tackling efficiency.

Scott was also a liability in coverage and nowhere was that more evident than the debacle of a game that defined the Jets' season.

Part of the 21-point outburst that blew open the New England Patriots' 49-19 blowout of the Jets on Thanksgiving night was an 83-yard pass play on which Scott played about as poorly in coverage as it's possible to play.

With the Jets in a zone defense, Scott was caught out of position and screened out of the play by diminutive wide receiver Wes Welker, leaving running back Shane Vereen wide open on a wheel route.

Add in Scott's lack of speed and what should have been a 10- or 15-yard pass play turned into a long touchdown that opened the floodgates for one of the ugliest games of the 2012 NFL season.

Granted, the Jets attempted to allay responsibility after the game. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie admitted to Mike Sielski of The Wall Street Journal that Scott was responsible for covering Vereen and "was in a bad position because he was too far inside," but he also said that the Jets should have recognized that and changed their coverage.

That's the problem. Coverages shouldn't have to be changed to compensate for a player with Scott's experience. Even with his physical limitations, there's no excuse for basically taking yourself out of the play like that.

The physical limitations are the other issue. Sure, the toe was part of the problem, but as Cris Collinsworth said during that fateful Thanksgiving broadcast (per Sielski), "As soon as Bart Scott got in the game, they knew. They started throwing it."

Combine a player with a bull's-eye on his back in the passing game with a fat salary, and there's little wonder he was released, especially with youngster Demario Davis waiting in the wings.

That doesn't necessarily mean that Scott's career is over. Scott's agent told Mike Garafolo and Jarrett Bell of USA Today that he believes Scott could get a look from some teams in free agency. That's a distinct possibility, especially with a number of teams making a switch to the 3-4 defense this year.

However, any team that looks at Scott won't be looking at him as an every-down linebacker. At this point in his career, he just isn't. He's at best a base-down "thumper" SILB whose experience should help offset his physical limitations against the run.

Against the pass? Get him off the field.

If that's what a team is looking for (even the Jets) and Scott's amenable to being paid for what he is and not what the Jets thought he would be, then he may well play on.

Just pray that no one throws in his direction.