AFC East: Bart Scott

NEW YORK -- The New York Jets soon have to make a decision on quarterback Mark Sanchez. Based on an informal poll of former players-turned-analysts (including ex-teammates) on "Radio Row" at Super Bowl XLVIII, it's a no-brainer:

Sanchez has to go.

"Nothing against Mark, but his time in New York is over," said Tony Richardson, who played with Sanchez on the 2009 and 2010 playoff teams. "For Mark and the organization, it's time for a fresh start. He deserves a fresh start. It would be hard to put people in the stands if you go back to the table with Mark."

Bart Scott, another former teammate from the playoff years, said a Sanchez-Geno Smith competition (essentially, a repeat of 2013) would create problems in the locker room.

"Sanchez has to be the star because he's still in his prime," said Scott, who believes the Jets should pursue Matt Schaub, who could be released by the Houston Texans. "Schaub understands where he's at in his career. He's a gate keeper. Sanchez thinks he can play for another eight, nine years. That created a tension."

Anthony Becht never played with Sanchez, but he follows the team closely and said, "It's time to move on. If somebody wants him in a trade, fine. If not, just cut him."

The Jets have to make a decision by March 25, when a $2 million roster bonus is due. Sanchez is signed for three more seasons, but his cap charge ($13.1 million) is prohibitive. Chances are, they will part ways with their former starter, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. They could try to trade him (that would mean renegotiating the contract) or, failing a trade, they can just release him to save $8.3 million against the cap.

"I can't imagine Mark Sanchez will be back with this team," said former NFL MVP Rich Gannon, who worked several Jets games for CBS. "A lot of players go through it. I had to go somewhere and get a new start. ... I don't think he'll want to come back and be a backup and I don't think you can run him out as a starter. I think his cap number will prevent him from being part of this team."

Former New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer said Smith "is just better than Sanchez. Throwing-wise, I think Geno has a bigger arm. Geno is a better decision-maker even though he has made some bad decisions. I just don't think you bring Mark Sanchez back. You move on. He had his time here. He had a lot of opportunity to play. If you think he's going to get better ... I don't."

How the Jets handle trash talking

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
Thanks to Richard Sherman's big mouth, trash talking is one of the front-and-center issues at Super Bowl XLVIII. The New York Jets happen to be well-versed on this subject. Who can forget Bart Scott's "Can't Wait!" rant after the Jets' stunning upset of the New England Patriots in the 2010 AFC divisional playoffs?

Scott's heat-of-the-moment reaction, in an on-field interview with ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, is worthy of the trash-talking Hall of Fame. It's worth a replay:

Scott: "To all the non-believers! To all the non-believers, especially you, Tom Jackson. Way to have our back, Keyshawn [Johnson]. Anybody can be beat!"

Paolantonio: "So how did that just feel?"

Scott: "It felt great. Poetic justice. We know we were a much better team than we came up and represented ourselves [on Dec. 7, a 45-3 loss]. We were pissed off. We were ready to come back and show what type of defense, what type of team this was, what type of character we had. We take a lot of slack. People gave us no chance, like we barely made the playoffs. We're a good football team."

Paolantonio: "It looks like this team played with anger all day. Why, Bart?"

Scott: "For all you non-believers, disrespect us, talk crap about the defense. We're the third-best defense in the league. All we hear about is their defense [the Patriots]. They can't stop a nosebleed, 25th in the league and we're the ones that get disrespected."

Paolantonio: "Congratulations. See you in Pittsburgh."

Scott: "Can't wait!"

Times have changed. Once known for their loose lips, the Jets have toned it down, including the bombastic Rex Ryan. The culture is different because general manager John Idzik, hired last January, frowns upon trash talking. There's a sense of paranoia, as people in the organization -- players and non-players -- are afraid to speak their mind. They still have some in-game trash talkers, most notably guard Willie Colon, and they still have a few players that provide juicy quotes to the media (namely defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson), but it's not the way it used to be.

On a scale of red (not allowed), yellow (within reason) and green (go for it), Ryan's approach has changed from green to a red/yellow combo.

Turkey Day fiasco shaped Jets franchise

September, 10, 2013

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- They happened in a span of 52 seconds, three calamitous plays that changed the season and probably changed the franchise.

Boom! Boom!! Boom!!!

You've heard of the Minute Waltz? This was the Minute Faults, three mistakes that bordered on mind-boggling.

[+] EnlargeShane Vereen
AP Photo/Julio CortezShane Vereen's 83-yard score gave the Pats a 14-0 lead with 9:43 left in the second quarter.
It was 7-0 last Thanksgiving night, the New York Jets trailing the New England Patriots, when the madness started. Suddenly, it was 28-0, because for only the third time in modern football history, a team scored three touchdowns in a 52-second span.

"Un-[bleeping]-believable," Jets coach Rex Ryan muttered on the sideline after the third touchdown, his reaction easy to decipher for a nation of television viewers.

The Jets and Patriots meet Thursday night for the first time since the Thanksgiving debacle and, even though the Jets refused to look back -- "It's very hazy," tackle Austin Howard said with a straight face -- it's impossible not to reflect on that ill-fated night. The Jets are who they are now, in part, because of what happened in those 52 seconds.

They actually went into the game with a 4-6 record, coming off a road victory, thinking they had a chance to get back into playoff contention. The 49-19 loss, which included the infamous Butt Fumble, made them a laughingstock. Owner Woody Johnson was disgusted by the performance, according to sources, some of whom believe he made up his mind that night to fire general manager Mike Tannenbaum and start a rebuilding process with a new front office.

"It was the beginning of difficult times," retired special-teams coach Mike Westhoff said Tuesday. "In reality, was it the beginning of the end? I'm not sure if I believe that. But in the big picture, yeah, it probably was."

It's probably an eerie coincidence, but three players directly involved in the three touchdowns are out of football. Linebacker Bart Scott and guard Brandon Moore are retired, and running back Joe McKnight is looking for a job after being released in training camp. A fourth, quarterback Mark Sanchez, is injured and could be finished with the Jets.

[+] EnlargeSteve Gregory
William Perlman/USA TODAY SportsForty-three seconds later, Steve Gregory scooped up the "Butt Fumble" and raced 32 yards for a score.
Could it be some kind of karmic justice?

Scott was supposed to cover running back Shane Vereen on a wheel route, but he didn't get to his spot on time and Vereen took a short pass and went for an 83-yard touchdown. There was 9:43 left on the second-quarter clock.

It would be Scott's final game versus the Patriots, against whom he enjoyed perhaps the highlight of his career. After the Jets' stunning win over them in the 2010 playoffs, Scott delivered his famous "Can't Wait!" rant.

Forty-three seconds after Tom Brady-to-Vereen, Sanchez aborted a running play after turning the wrong way on the handoff. He tried to run, the right move, but he ran into Moore's backside, hitting it with such force that Sanchez lost the football. It took a fortuitous bounce for the Pats' Steve Gregory, who made the scoop and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown.

The Butt Fumble was born, becoming part of the sports lexicon.

"It wears thin," Westhoff said of the seemingly endless references to the Butt Fumble. "I don't want to hear about it anymore."

On the ensuing kickoff, McKnight, a home-run threat, was blasted by Devin McCourty. The ball came flying out and hung in the air, as if being held up by an invisible string. Julian Edelman grabbed it on the run and sprinted 22 yards for another touchdown.

[+] EnlargeJulian Edelman
Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesOnly nine seconds elapsed before the Pats' next touchdown, as Julian Edelman plucked a fumble out of the air and raced to pay dirt.
There was 8:51 on the clock. Patriots 28, Jets 0. It was so embarrassing that the Jets' most famous fan, Fireman Ed, couldn't take it anymore and left the building. For good.

Sanchez later referred to his fumble disaster as a "car crash," meaning the randomness of it. There were three car crashes in 52 seconds or, as Westhoff called them, "crazy negative plays." The probability of three fluke plays occurring in rapid-fire succession is incalculable. That each unit -- offense, defense, special teams -- was responsible for giving up a touchdown was fitting, because it was a true team meltdown.

This week, the Jets have made it a point to avoid any references to last Thanksgiving. But there's some relevancy because it's another short week. Obviously, they need to be better prepared, mentally and physical, than the last time.

"We don't even think about that one," wide receiver Stephen Hill said. "We haven't even talked about it. It hasn't been brought up at all. We're just ready for 2013 and ready to get it kicked off with the Patriots."

There are 57,600 seconds in a 16-game season. For the Jets, 52 seconds of epic failure will remain timeless.
The AFC East blog continues its "Show and Prove" series in the division for 2013.

Next we take a look at New York Jets starting linebacker DeMario Davis.

2012 stats: 36 tackles

What he has to prove: Davis must prove he is the long-term solution at inside linebacker for New York. The Jets drafted Davis in the third round in 2012, and now it’s his turn to step up after the team cut veteran linebacker Bart Scott. The Jets are in full rebuild mode in 2013. They desperately need young leaders to emerge, and it’s important that Davis develops into one of those players.

Walker's 2013 outlook: The Jets put a lot of hype on Davis as soon as he arrived, and I’m not sure that was a good idea. New York head coach Rex Ryan compared him to a young Ray Lewis last year in training camp before Davis played his first NFL game. That raised a lot of eyebrows. Davis didn’t see the field regularly until the second half of his rookie season. I saw some flashes of athleticism. But Davis didn’t make many impact plays, and I’m still not convinced he’s the next great linebacker under Ryan. Davis must prove he can be a consistent playmaker for 16 games.
It was not a very good year for AFC East defenses in 2012. Three teams in the division finished with rankings in the 20s.

But there have been a lot of changes for the division via free agency and the draft. Let’s take a look at updated defensive rankings for the AFC East entering the regular season.

No. 1: Miami Dolphins

Analysis: The Dolphins ranked 21st in total defense in 2012. But Miami was decent against the run and only allowed 19.8 points per game, good for seventh in the NFL. The Dolphins’ biggest issue was their inconsistent pass defense. Miami gave up too many big passing plays and it cost the Dolphins some games. The Dolphins aggressively attacked their cornerback position by signing former Pro Bowler Brent Grimes and drafting Jamar Taylor and Will Davis in the second and third rounds, respectively. The Dolphins also added another pass-rushing threat with No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan. If Miami stops allowing big passing plays, the Dolphins’ defense will be tough to beat.

No. 2: New England Patriots

Analysis: The Patriots were 25th in total defense in 2012. But I project New England to make a sizable jump in 2013. The Patriots made solid strides last year in red-zone defense and points allowed. But New England gave up too many chunk passing plays in between the 20s. The Patriots were 29th in pass defense last season. The return of No. 1 cornerback Aqib Talib to the secondary is huge, in addition to starting corner Alfonzo Dennard overcoming his legal issues and the Patriots signing hard-hitting safety Adrian Wilson. New England’s pass rush should also improve, led by a healthy Chandler Jones. There is a lot to like about the Patriots’ defense this season, especially with head coach Bill Belichick calling the shots. I wouldn’t be surprised to see New England move up 10 spots or more from last year’s ranking.

No. 3: New York Jets

Analysis: Here is one thing you can count on with the Jets under head coach Rex Ryan: He will field a very good defense. New York has been in the top 10 in total defense since Ryan took over in 2009. The Jets, despite their ugly 6-10 record, was ranked No. 8 in total defense last season. But look for the unit to take a step back in 2013. New York’s scheme remains strong, but this is the least amount of talent Ryan has had in his five seasons with the Jets. New York traded the best cornerback in the NFL -- Darrelle Revis -- to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and lost Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry, linebacker Bart Scott and defensive linemen Sione Po'uha and Mike DeVito. The Jets will try to replace these established veterans with younger players, many of whom are rookies or players with just one year of experience. Defense will still be the Jets' strength, but they won’t be as strong on that side of the ball than in previous years.

No. 4: Buffalo Bills

Analysis: I had a hard time ranking the Bills’ defense. This group has talent on paper, but Buffalo never came close to putting it all together last season. The Bills ranked No. 22 in total defense in 2012, 31st against the run. It will be the job of new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to get the most out of his talent. Buffalo has some quality players on defense. Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, defensive end Mario Williams and former first-round picks Marcell Dareus and Stephon Gilmore are all talented. But collectively, the Bills’ defense grossly underachieved. The linebacker play must improve dramatically. I’m also concerned about two major holes at cornerback and safety.

I'm sure there will be plenty of debate about these rankings -- and really, the AFC East is wide open on defense this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these teams lead the division defensively; all four have a chance to be competitive. It most likely will come down to which team can consistently execute defensively and stay healthy over a 16-game season.
Last season, linebacker Karlos Dansby was a staple of the Miami Dolphins' defense. Nick Barnett was the Buffalo Bills' leading tackler in 2012, and linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace provided toughness and a veteran presence from the New York Jets.

But none of these linebackers have found work after being released from their respective teams.

It's been a rough start to free agency for many former AFC East linebackers. More than two weeks have past, and players such as Dansby, Barnett, Scott and Pace have yet to find work after being cut. All four played significant roles with their former AFC East teams in 2012 but were victims of circumstance.

Dansby was cut after the Dolphins signed former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe in free agency. It was a surprising move for Dansby, who recorded 134 tackles last season and fully expected to return in 2013. Dansby is a productive player, but he hit the open market during free agency. Teams have to do last-minute homework on Dansby and determine his value.

Barnett recorded a team-high 112 tackles for the Bills last season. But those numbers were somewhat deceiving. Buffalo was 31st against the run in 2012. The Bills were often pushed around and Barnett made a lot of his tackles 7 yards down the field.

Scott and Pace are both linebackers over 30 years old. They can help a team in a limited role. Keep an eye on the Bills and new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. He coached Scott and Pace in New York and may want one of these veterans to join Buffalo and help mentor the younger players and teach the system.
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at whether each AFC East team has been a winner or a loser in free agency.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills have been losers in free agency mostly due to inactivity. Buffalo made just one signing: linebacker Manny Lawson. With a new head coach and new schemes on offense and defense, the Bills need a lot more than one linebacker to be competitive next season. Most important, they need to find a quarterback after cutting former starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Buffalo also lost starting guard Andy Levitre, linebacker Nick Barnett, veteran safety George Wilson and receivers Donald Jones and David Nelson. The team has yet to fill those holes. Interestingly, the Bills were major players in free agency a year ago. They signed defensive end Mario Williams to a $100 million contract and made several other signings. However, Buffalo finished 6-10 in 2012 and decided to take a much quieter approach in 2013.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are big winners in free agency. They landed the best wide receiver on the market (Mike Wallace) and the top linebacker (Dannell Ellerbe). Miami also signed a pass-catching tight end (Dustin Keller) and an additional, athletic linebacker (Philip Wheeler). Miami’s roster looks much stronger and more dynamic than it did heading into the 2012 season, when the team went 7-9. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said it was his goal to close the gap with the New England Patriots. Ireland deserves a lot of credit for a solid game plan and executing it well. The Dolphins still have holes to fill at cornerback, left tackle and at pass-rusher. But Miami still has cap room to spend and 11 total draft picks next month. The Dolphins are not finished adding talent.

New England Patriots: The Patriots have had mixed results in free agency. But overall I would just barely put them in the winners' category. I do not like what they've done on offense, where they lost two starting receivers: Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. The pair accounted for 192 receptions, 2,265 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. That's a lot of lost production that Danny Amendola and Donald Jones -- New England's two free-agent signings at receiver – will not be able to match. The Patriots also haven't re-signed starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who remains a free agent. New England must patch these two holes offensively. On the other hand, I like what New England has done defensively. The Patriots solidified their secondary by signing former Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson and re-signing No. 1 cornerback Aqib Talib. They also re-signed backup corners Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole and added exciting kick returner Leon Washington on special teams.

New York Jets: The Jets are huge losers so far in free agency. They lost talented players much faster than they can replace them. Former New York starters Shonn Greene, Keller, LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, Sione Pouha, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace were either recently released or signed with other teams. The Jets are hamstrung by a tight salary cap. Therefore, first-year Jets general manager John Idzik has been forced to bargain shop. New York made several low-cost signings, such as tailback Mike Goodson and guard Willie Colon. But overall, the Jets have more holes than they can fill in one offseason.

AFC East free-agency primer

March, 11, 2013
» NFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Buffalo Bills
HEAD COACH: Doug Marrone

Cap Status: The Bills do not have a ton of cap space compared to last year. But they have some flexibility and can still make a run at several players. Buffalo recently re-signed cornerback Leodis McKelvin and placed the franchise tag on safety Jairus Byrd, and those contracts will somewhat limit what the team can do this week. The Bills were among the biggest players in free agency in 2012 and spent a large chunk of their cap on $100 million defensive end Mario Williams.

Strategy: The Bills are very much a team in transition. They have a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive coordinator and potentially a new quarterback. Buffalo most likely will not look to free agency to find another quarterback. The Bills already have two veterans on the roster, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tarvaris Jackson. Adding a drafted rookie to the group makes more sense. Expect Buffalo to use its free-agent dollars at linebacker and wide receiver. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is installing a 3-4 scheme in Buffalo that relies heavily on solid, tough linebacker play. The Bills were 31st in run defense last year and the linebackers were pushed around too often. Buffalo also needs a No. 2 receiver to pair with Steve Johnson. The Bills let receivers David Nelson and Donald Jones walk in free agency and lack depth at the position. Buffalo continues to negotiate with starting guard Andy Levitre, but he could get interest from several teams in free agency and create a bidding war.

Miami Dolphins
HEAD COACH: Joe Philbin

Cap Status: The Dolphins have the most cap room in the AFC East. They began the offseason with more than $40 million available. However, recent signings of three in-house players -- receiver Brian Hartline, quarterback Matt Moore and defensive tackle Randy Starks -- have reduced that number.

Strategy: Miami still has plenty of room to make a splash this week. The Dolphins are the favorite to land former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, who could command about $12 million per season. The speedy Wallace could be the missing piece to a Dolphins passing game ranked 26th in the NFL last season. Miami also needs to address its situation at cornerback, tight end, safety and left tackle. The Dolphins are not expected to re-sign former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long. That leaves a big hole to fill at left tackle. The Dolphins could play 2012 second-round pick Jonathan Martin on the left side if they cannot find a better option in free agency. No. 1 cornerback and free agent Sean Smith also could leave Miami, which would create another major hole. Keep in mind the Dolphins also have nine draft picks, including five in the first three rounds. Whatever holes they cannot plug in free agency will be addressed in April's draft.

New England Patriots
GENERAL MANAGER*: Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio
HEAD COACH: Bill Belichick

Cap Status: The Patriots are in decent shape. Quarterback Tom Brady recently provided a big assist by signing a three-year, $27 million contract extension. The move reportedly freed up an additional $15 million in cap room over the next two years to keep New England in position to contend.

Strategy: The Patriots will not be the biggest players in free agency, but they have enough room to go after a few desired targets. Definitely keep an eye on New England's secondary. The Patriots need help at both cornerback and safety. They have already been linked to Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed, who has a desire to stay with a contender. Belichick has an immense respect for Reed and the way he plays the game. New England also must address its in-house free agents, such as receiver Wes Welker, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and corner Aqib Talib. The Patriots do not get sentimental with their own players and are not afraid to let them test the market. New England runs the risk of losing all three players. But the Patriots refuse to overpay and are prepared to go to Plan B and Plan C for each scenario.

* The Patriots do not have a general manager by title, but Belichick has the final say on all personnel matters in New England. Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio shares some of the GM duties with Belichick.

New York Jets

Cap Status: The Jets have a very tight cap. Former general manager Mike Tannenbaum significantly mismanaged the roster the past couple of seasons by overpaying veterans and poorly restructuring contracts. This is the year the Jets pay for those mistakes.

Strategy: The Jets have a lot of needs but few resources to work with. The team already cut veterans Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Eric Smith just to get under the cap. New York is not expected to re-sign Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry, 1,000-yard tailback Shonn Greene and starting tight end Dustin Keller because they will be too expensive. Idzik says he will field a competitive team in his first year, but that's an extremely tough task. The Jets have no choice but to look for bargain-bin options in free agency. New York's biggest needs are on offense. The Jets need help at quarterback but can afford only cheap options like David Garrard. They also need to add talented skill players at wide receiver, tight end and running back to support the quarterback. Don't expect the Jets to make much noise in free agency. New York's best option to improve this year is through the draft.

Eight in the Box: Biggest cap casualty

February, 22, 2013
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Welcome to Eight in the Box, an NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week's topic: Who will be each team's biggest salary-cap casualty this offseason?

Buffalo Bills: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is the prime candidate. The Bills already have begun their defensive makeover by cutting linebacker Nick Barnett, safety George Wilson and cornerback Terrence McGee. But their biggest salary-cap question is Fitzpatrick. He's due a $3 million roster bonus in March, a $4.25 million salary and an easy-to-obtain $200,000 workout bonus. That is a lot of money for an erratic starter who might be a backup next season. The Bills could save bonus money and salary by cutting Fitzpatrick, but they also would inherit “dead money” on the cap because of past bonuses. The Bills could also ask Fitzpatrick to restructure his contract to keep him on the roster.

Miami Dolphins: Cornerback Dimitri Patterson tops the list. Because of injuries and underperformance, the Dolphins desperately needed depth at corner at the end of last season. Miami hastily claimed Patterson off waivers and took on the $16 million contract he recently signed with the Cleveland Browns. But the Dolphins knew Patterson’s contract has an out this offseason. Miami can cut Patterson and his $4.5 million salary in 2013 with no penalty. Like Fitzpatrick, Patterson also could be a candidate to restructure.

New England Patriots: Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd could be cut. This is by no means a slam dunk -- the Patriots need to add receivers, not lose them. But Lloyd has a $3 million option bonus this offseason that could cause the Patriots to hesitate. Lloyd struggled to get on the same page with quarterback Tom Brady in their first year together. But Lloyd also made some acrobatic catches and showed flashes. New England would expect better chemistry from Lloyd and Brady in their second year together. But Lloyd remains a dark-horse candidate to be released.

New York Jets: Linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace have already been cut, and the Jets already made their biggest cuts. New York cut five players altogether and slashed about $30 million in salary to get under the cap. Scott and Pace represented the “old guard” in New York that led the team to back-to-back AFC title games in 2009 and 2010. But that time has passed, and it is time for the Jets to rebuild.
There was one curious name missing from the New York Jets' first round of cuts on Tuesday.

The Jets released veterans Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Eric Smith, Josh Baker and Jason Smith to get under the salary cap. But New York still held onto polarizing backup quarterback Tim Tebow.


There is no secret that Tebow will not be a Jet in 2013. However, this is an indication New York is holding out hope that it can get something for Tebow in a trade. The Jacksonville Jaguars were the best possibility until they backed out of the Tebow sweepstakes. Now, the market for Tebow appears non-existent.

The Jets appear willing to wait for some quarterback-needy team to step up and acquire Tebow. It would preferably happen before the draft, so New York could get an extra pick this year to improve the team.

Either way, the Tebow ship has sailed in New York. It was a one-year experiment that turned out to be disastrous, and it's just a matter of time before the Jets cut ties.

Maybe the Jets will eventually get lucky and be able to trade Tebow. But right now it doesn't appear teams are lining up to acquire him.

Former Jets could find home with Bills

February, 20, 2013
Last week, the AFC East blog examined the possibility of the Buffalo Bills going after projected New York Jets castoffs. We mentioned Calvin Pace and Bart Scott as two Jets likely to be released.

On Tuesday, that projection became a reality as New York cut five players: Pace, Scott, safety Eric Smith, offensive tackle Jason Smith and tight end Josh Baker. These now former Jets are all free game for Buffalo to recruit.

With former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine now running Buffalo’s defense, expect the Bills to be on the short list for Pace, Scott and Eric Smith.

Let's take a look at each player and how they would fit with the Bills:
  • Scott brings attitude and toughness. Those are two things Buffalo lacked on defense and within its thin linebacker corps. The Bills were 31st against the run last year and were pushed around way too often. Scott can help against the run and knows Pettine's defense well. But Scott, 32, is a limited, two-down linebacker at this stage in his career. The Bills would need a more athletic linebacker to cover on passing downs.
  • Pace is the best player of the three defenders. He is 32 but still has something left in the tank. Pace recorded 55 tackles and three sacks in 2012. He's also durable and hasn't missed a start since 2010. The biggest issue with Pace is his declining sack numbers. Pace had a season-high eight sacks in 2009, but that number has decreased every year since. He may not add much of a pass rush to Buffalo but could provide mentorship and knowledge to Buffalo’s younger defenders.
  • The Bills also have an opening at safety after releasing veteran leader George Wilson. However, Smith would be a downgrade as a starting safety. Smith is limited in coverage and is not always a reliable tackler. Pettine may have interest in Smith as a third safety who also can assist on special teams.

Buffalo has the cap room to make some veteran additions. Free agency doesn't start until March, but the Bills can get a head start due to these recently released former Jets.

Morning take: Bills and Manti Te'o?

February, 20, 2013
Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday in the AFC East: Morning take: Te'o is an interesting prospect. Buffalo needs playmaking linebackers. But Te'o looked overwhelmed against Alabama and has some questions that he needs to answer at this week's combine.
Morning take: That is a lot of money for two players. But the Jets gained two starters who led the team to back-to-back AFC title games. It was time for both sides to move on.
  • How far will the New England Patriots go for free-agent right tackle Sebastian Vollmer?
Morning take: This will be an interesting negotiation. Vollmer is a good player but he often plays injured. Yet, Vollmer would get plenty of interest if he hits the open market.
  • Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill must improve on third down.
Morning take: Some of this is due to inexperience and some is due to a lack of a quality supporting cast. Tannehill will be fine next season when he gets more reps with better skill players around him.

Jets also cut LB Bart Scott

February, 19, 2013
Earlier Tuesday we wrote that the New York Jets were just beginning their series of cuts and linebacker Bart Scott shouldn't be too far behind. It turns out New York released Scott just a couple hours after its first group that included four players.

Scott was a former starter who was one of head coach Rex Ryan's first big signings in free agency. Scott brought toughness to New York and plenty of personality that has defined the Ryan era.

But New York is in the process of a youth movement and Scott no longer fits with the Jets. New York desperately needed the cap room and reportedly is $4.7 million under the cap heading into this week's NFL combine.

Jets begin a long, hard rebuild

February, 19, 2013

The New York Jets made a series of expected cuts Tuesday. New York released veteran linebacker Calvin Pace, safety Eric Smith, offensive lineman Jason Smith and tight end Josh Baker, the team announced

It was only a matter of time before New York made wholesale changes under new general manager John Idzik. The Jets cleared $21.2 million of salary-cap room with these four cuts and are still about $2 million over the cap, senior writer John Clayton reports. In other words, this is just the beginning for the underachieving Jets, who finished 6-10 in 2012.

Due to poor cap management over the years by former general manager Mike Tannenbaum, the Jets are forced to undergo a youth movement. Other veterans such as linebacker Bart Scott and popular backup quarterback Tim Tebow shouldn't be too far behind in finding their way out of New York.

The Jets will miss Pace and Eric Smith, in particular. Both were contributors to New York’s back-to-back AFC title game appearances in 2009 and 2010.

But it will be a while before the Jets have a chance to reach that level again. Therefore, New York made a wise move to begin its long, hard rebuild by releasing four veterans on Tuesday.

Update: The Jets also cut Bart Scott Tuesday afternoon, making it five cuts total.
Veteran linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace are expected to be released soon by the salary-strapped New York Jets. Pro Bowl safety and pending free-agent LaRon Landry also is not expected to return.

Should the Buffalo Bills swoop in and recruit any of these former Jets? Here are several reasons it's possible:
  • Buffalo has a strong tie to Pace, Scott and Landry now that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine left the Jets this year to join the Bills. Buffalo will run the same system that he ran with the Jets, and Pettine needs to recruit players who know the system well. Buffalo, unlike New York, also has salary-cap space to spend on signing free agents.
  • It's also no secret that Buffalo needs an upgrade at linebacker and safety. The Bills just cut linebacker and leading tackler Nick Barnett, as well as veteran safety George Wilson. They will be looking for at least one linebacker and one safety to fill those holes. Buffalo was 31st against the run last season, and needs to get a lot tougher. Scott, Pace and Landry all have the ability to improve Buffalo's physicality.
  • Finally, Buffalo offers familiarity and a chance to stay within the division. Money obviously is the biggest factor. But rest assured playing against New York twice a year will provide some level of added motivation for former Jets. It is doubtful Buffalo will land all three former Jets in free agency. However, it wouldn't be shocking if the Bills make a run at least one of them to fill a need.