Rumors are swirling about New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott, and there are indications that the Rex Ryan favorite could potentially find himself elsewhere in 2012.
Multiple reports came out on Monday from the NFL combine, where Scott’s agent Harold C. Lewis indicated that there is a schism between Scott and the Jets that could result in a breakup.
First and foremost the two sides would like to find a middle ground and find a way to keep Scott in a Jets uniform in 2012. That appears to be everybody’s preference if at all possible.
Scott voluntarily took a $1 million pay cut before the 2011 season as the Jets were trying to create cap room, but when they did that, they guaranteed Scott’s $4.2 million salary for 2012.
Reportedly, Scott grew frustrated with his role last season after he only participated in 64.4% of the Jets’ snaps on defense, compared to 83.8% in 2010 and 94% in 2009.
Scott has never complained about this publicly, and it’s a little strange that his agent would leak this now, but I completely understand Scott’s frustrations, I can empathize with that.
The 32-year-old linebacker often plays a pretty thankless, unsung role in the Jets defense. His job is basically to create plays for his teammates, rather than tackle the ballcarrier, a majority of the time.
In 2010, he was as good an inside linebacker as there was in football. Pro Football Focus wrote a piece about him that’s one of my favorite all-time football articles, “The Art of Linebacking.”
I’ve written about that PFF piece before. It’s a great read. It helps football fans understand exactly what’s so difficult about the weakside inside linebacker role in the 3-4 defense.
That season, Scott was PFF’s top-ranked inside linebacker against the run, and 3rd-ranked inside linebacker overall behind only Lawrence Timmons and Patrick Willis.
Everything was all good in 2010, when Scott made his famous “Can’t Wait” speech and the Jets were a game away from the Super Bowl.
But we all know how that ended. The Jets came out flat, could not recover in time, and they fell five points short of reaching that Super Bowl. They were left to regroup in 2011, and they failed.
In 2011, Bart Scott was unable to recreate his elite 2010 season, when he was ranked by PFF as the 29th best overall player at any position for that season.
To his credit, despite his snap count decreasing dramatically this past season, Scott was still rated as PFF’s 11th best inside linebacker overall, and 6th against the run.
Granted, PFF’s rankings are not absolute truth, but they do tell a pretty big story, especially when we can’t adequately judge players by traditional stats like tackles and assists.
Also keep in mind that he was the 11th-ranked ILB and 6th-ranked ILB in run defense and those numbers are cumulative, not per-snap. Scott played 677 snaps, the top 10 ILB averaged about 987 snaps.
Scott is still a productive player, at least by my standards. He’s a wrecking ball who blows up the running game and he’s always performed well in whatever role the Jets have asked him to play.
If it were up to Rex Ryan and Ryan alone, I have no doubt that Scott would be here for the long haul.
“I love my coach,” Scott said after the Jets’ playoff win in New England. “I would die for that man. I love that man to death. … That’s the reason I left Baltimore, to come here and write my legacy with him.”
Unfortunately, that legacy doesn’t look like it’s going to be in New York much longer.
Last Thursday, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum was coy on Scott’s situation.
“Bart is under contract, and we expect him to be back,” Tannenbaum said. “He starts for us, and he is under contract.”
“We expect him back” is the same thing the Jets said about Brian Schottenheimer, and we all know how they turned out.
The bottom line is that Scott has three years left on his contract. Jason from nyjetscap.com, who does a great job breaking down contracts, wrote about the difficulties of trading Scott.
If the Jets cut Scott the cap charge would be $7.2 million, a very high cost for a player no longer on the team. If they trade him it is only $3 million, which represents a cap savings of $2.95 million for the club, making a trade definitely worth doing.
Finding a trade partner, on the other hand, is another story. Scott has three years and roughly $18-19 million left on his deal. If they were able to trade him, it would be strictly a salary dump, most likely.
The Jets signed Scott to a six-year, $48 million deal in 2009 and for the first two years he was the heart and soul of the defense and the Jets defied the odds, reaching back-to-back AFC Championship games.
But with a role as physically demanding and punishing as Scott’s job, it was only a matter of time before he slowed down. He was still pretty good in 2011, but he’s not getting any younger.
At this point it almost looks like a foregone conclusion that Scott’s tenure with the Jets is going to end sooner rather than later.
He’s a good player, and the Jets have a lot of holes to fill, so opening up another position that needs upgrading isn’t ideal. But if that’s what it takes, that’s what they’ll do.
The Jets have done a pretty good job knowing when to cut bait with veterans in the past. Alan Faneca and Thomas Jones come to mind.
One way they could get by with replacing Scott is becoming more of a 4-3 defense again, where the weakside inside linebacker is not really needed.
The Jets have played a lot of hybrid defensive fronts under Rex Ryan, so it’s not inconceivable that they would go that route.
He’s a solid player, and I expect him to do well wherever he ends up. But he’s not versatile enough to warrant the money, or so the Jets seem to think.
Jets fans should be thankful for all of Bart Scott’s contributions. He was an elite player not too long ago, but this is a “what have you done for me lately” league. As soon as you lose a half-step, you’re gone.
Scott was Ryan’s surrogate on the field, the linebacker who could talk the talk and then back it up with his play. Players like him don’t come along too often, and they don’t last either.
The Jets will attempt to trade him if they cannot find a way to reconcile their differences. Both sides have valid reasons for their perspectives. No one is at fault, and hopefully there’s no hard feelings.
I would welcome him back for one more season, but I understand that’s not looking very likely. I trust the Jets to make the right choice for the team going forward.
I’ll miss Mr. “Can’t Wait” himself, the hair-on-fire, fullback-destroying, joke-cracking linebacker who helped turn the culture around alongside his friend and mentor, Rex Ryan.
But all good things must come to an end. If the Jets believe they’re better off without him, then they’ll move on. That’s football, for you.
P.S. it would only be fitting to leave you with the famous video that made him a household name. Thanks for the memories, Madbacker.