With Tuesday’s news out of Florham Park that the Jets have released five players—including starting linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott—the official rebuilding process has begun. The Jets will likely promote rookie linebacker Demario Davis to a starting position and look to add another in the draft—possibly with their first-round pick.
Along with the releases of safety Eric Smith, tackle Jason Smith, and tight end Josh Baker, the moves free up more than $30 million in cap space to get the Jets more than $5 million below the cap.
Still, the small cap window will more than likely force the Jets to fill their holes through the draft—which goes against the thinking that brought in Pace and Scott in the first place.
Both players were brought to New York via free agency—Pace signed a six-year deal for $42 million in 2008, while Scott inked a six-year $48 million contract the following offseason.
Both were good players when the deals were made, but both had seen their production drop in 2012. Pace’s three sacks and 35 solo tackles were his lowest amount since 2006 when he was a Cardinal. Meanwhile, Scott’s 36 solo stops were his fewest since 2004 when he was a Raven.
As disappointing as it may seem to Jets fans to see the team starting over again, there is some good news.
Though the Jets were pretty good during the height of Pace’s and Scott’s careers—reaching the AFC title games in 2009 and 2010—the best teams aren’t built through free agency. Just look at the latest Super Bowl matchup.
Though the Jets were pretty good during the height of Pace and Scott’s careers—reaching the AFC title games in 2009 and 2010—the best teams aren’t built through free agency.
Baltimore’s signature players such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, and Ray Rice were all obtained through the draft. Even their Super Bowl counterparts, the San Francisco 49ers, were built primarily via the draft. Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Navorro Bowman, and Patrick Willis all starred for the Niners and all were homegrown talent.
Even the previous champions—the New York Giants—are notorious for building through the draft by getting such players as Eli Manning, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Hakeem Nicks.
So, why does it work better through the draft?For one thing, in football, usually a player’s best years are his first years—save for quarterbacks which start slow but last longer. Age and injuries eventually erode speed away from a player as they get older. Meanwhile, a high-profile player generally reaches free agency in his mid-to-late 20′s and can command a multi-year deal that will pay him well into his 30′s—an age when players are generally in decline.
Granted, teams are going to have to ante up to sign their own great players. But in general the smart teams will be wary of which players get the big contracts, while continuing to fortify the team through younger and less-expensive players.
Now, the Jets just have to find those players in the draft. Easier said than done.
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