Well it’s time to take out the ‘punching bag’, Eric Smith, for some more jabs. Smith did not exactly inspire most Jets fans with his play this past season. Visions of him trying to chase down tight ends every week are still etched in our memories, but before you just toss poor Eric to the curb, there are some things to consider.
Three safeties are currently on the Jets’ roster Eric Smith, Gerald Alexander and Tracy Wilson. Former Jets, now unrestricted free agents, starter Jim Leonhard and backup Brodney Pool may be resigned. Leonhard suffered a season ending knee injury and will not be ready for opening day. If the team does not bring him back they could sign a free agent safety like Reggie Nelson instead.
The Jets will address their position needs in the upcoming 2012 draft. A player like Mark Barron from Alabama or other top prospects at safety will be picked by the team.
So there you go, Jim Leonhard or Reggie Nelson, Brodney Pool, Gerald Alexander, Tracy Wilson and the 2012 safety draft pick. You can just dump Eric Smith and his salary, but this creates some problems. Alexander has played in eight games over the last two seasons, with ten total tackles, while Wilson, a rookie last year, was brought up from the practice squad and saw limited action in five games. Would you trust these guys to even contribute much less be an emergency starter? If the Jets got Mark Barron in the draft there are no guarantees, like with all rookies, he can just step in right away.
Eric Smith is not a starting NFL safety over the rigors of a sixteen game schedule. He is good in situational defenses and can play special teams. Lack of depth hurt the Jets last year and if a safety or two goes down to injury a former starter, now backup, has the experience necessary to play the position. Smith has also been in playoff games, who can forget the hit he laid on Wes Welker causing pieces of Welker’s helmet go flying.
What about cutting him and saving money under the salary cap? Smith will have to renegotiate his contract and lower his 2012 number. If he agrees to a one year deal worth $765,000 the Jets charge will only be $605,000 cause of certain NFL salary rules. So are you willing to throw away a very capable backup who knows the defense for $215,000 at most in cap savings?
The Jets want to avoid too much turnover at one position in a given year. Due to his experience keeping Eric Smith will bring a level of stability during this period of transition at safety. Once other players develop they can move away from him but if the price is right Smith does have value to the team in 2012.