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Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Pace is back: All about dollars and sense

By Rich Cimini

Quick takeaways on the Jets re-signing OLB Calvin Pace to a one-year contract:

1. Never say goodbye: Pace is an example of how the NFL works nowadays. One day you're a salary-cap casualty, two months later you're back. Pace was part of the Feb. 19 purge, which also claimed Bart Scott, Eric Smith and Jason Smith. The Jets were in cap hell and Pace had to go because of an $11.6 million cap charge. They absorbed the cap hit ($3 million in "dead" money) and let him test the market. He didn't attract a lot of interest, opting to return. No word on the amount of his contract, but let's say it's $1.5 million. Add that to the dead money, and Pace will count approximately $4.5 million on the cap -- an estimated savings of $7.1 million from his original cap charge.

2. Glaring need: The Jets signed former Chargers OLB Antwan Barnes as a free agent, but there was still a rather large hole in their depth chart at outside linebacker. Graybeard Bryan Thomas won't be re-signed, meaning they needed another starting-caliber player. Clearly, the Jets see Garrett McIntyre and Ricky Sapp as backup types. They still could draft an outside 'backer with the ninth overall pick (Barkevious Mingo, anyone?), but Pace's return affords them flexibility. In a perfect world, Barnes would be used as a pass-rushing specialist.

3. Not flashy, but steady: Pace never became the dynamic pass-rusher the Jets envisioned when they gave him a six-year, $42 million contract in 2008, but he has value because of his versatility. He rarely comes off the field; he played 94 percent of the defensive snaps last season. He can be an edge-setting outside linebacker in the 3-4 base, and he can put his hand in the dirt and rush the quarterback on third down. If Pace were a starting pitcher in baseball, he'd be known as an innings eater. He's not a star (only three sacks last season), but he'll give you an honest day's work -- a complementary player.

4. No more Swiss cheese: At the start of free agency, the Jets' once-formidable defense was filled with holes. GM John Idzik has gradually addressed the issues, signing Barnes, S Dawan Landry, DT Antonio Garay and re-signing Pace. Now, what? They still need an edge rusher and a safety -- and another cornerback if Darrelle Revis is traded. It wouldn't be a shock if they pick a pass-rusher and safety on the first two days of the draft.