NFL off-season: New York Jets release Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and three others
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: February 20, 2013 7:06pm
The New York Jets have set about clearing salary cap space for the new season by releasing five players from the team, including linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace.
The cash-strapped Jets badly needed to ease their burgeoning wage bill before the start of the new league year on March 12, and also released safety Eric Smith, offensive tackle Jason Smith and tight end Josh Baker.
Scott and Pace had been due to be big earners next season, while Smith was due a huge $12m roster bonus from his old contract with the St Louis Rams, and with all the savings the Jets have shaved around $30 million off their salary bill.
One of head coach Rex Ryan's first moves after getting the job in 2009 was to return to his former team Baltimore to bring Scott to New York, and he has been a major defensive leader since.
Scott's departure was widely anticipated though, with his production falling away in the last couple of years and the Jets in deep salary cap trouble.
Pace was also brought in on a big-money contract back in 2008 and the two men had been part of the Jets' big-name defence. Their departure signals a changing of the guard in the Big Apple.
"Every one of these players was a major contributor to our football team," Ryan said. "I was very impressed with Jason this past season while Bart, Calvin and Eric have been an instrumental part of our defence for the past four years."
Scott was also hindered by turf toe last year which saw him miss three games for the first time since 2005, and in the end his departure was inevitable.
The moves come as part of the re-shaping of the team by new general manager John Idzik, who finished third in the AFC East last season with a poor 6-10 record.
Ryan made an instant impact with the Jets by taking them to two AFC Championship games, but his expensively-assembled squad is now ageing and he needs to build again for a fresh assault on the Super Bowl.
Idzik also takes over a team that has signed struggling quarterback Mark Sanchez to a huge new contract and that puzzle will be one of the biggest the team has to solve if they are to get back on the up.