A familiar face is returning to Gang Green this upcoming season. The New York Jets signed veteran linebacker Calvin Pace to a one-year deal, which will mark his fifth season with the Green and White.
The Jets picked up Pace during the 2008 offseason when he signed a six year, $42-million contract. The organization decided to cut Pace in early February along with fellow linebacker Bart Scott in favor of freeing up desperately needed salary cap space. The Jets let a few fan favorites walk during free agency including: defensive linemen Mike Devito and Sione Pouha, running back Shonn Greene, tight end Dustin Keller and safety Eric Smith this offseason.
During his Jets’ career, Pace racked up 313 tackles and 28 sacks. In 2012 he compiled 55 tackles and three sacks. During No. 97’s first two seasons in New York he was a force on defense and a fierce pass-rusher. During 2008 he had a career year with 80 tackles and seven sacks. The following season Pace had 55 tackles and a career-high eight sacks.
Pace made a name for himself with the Arizona Cardinals tallying 98 tackles and 6.5 sacks with the Cardinals during the 2007 campaign.
Pace gives the Jets a linebacker who can rush the passer and make open field tackles. He has become known as a consistent every down linebacker and brings a veteran presence to a young defense.
Although he brings leadership to Gang Green, the 32-year-old’s best year’s are behind him.
The Jets will most likely draft an outside linebacker when the ninth pick rolls around during the this month’s NFL Draft. There are three impressive young linebackers waiting on the draft board. Dion Jordan out of Oregon is the top option for linebacker this year, and he is followed by LSU’s highly-touted defensive end Barkevious Mingo and Georgia standout Jarvis Jones.
The Jets also signed former San Diego Chargers linebacker Antwan Barnes to a three-year deal. Barnes posses the ability to blitz the passer, during the 2011 season he had an impressive 11 sacks.
Pace is a favorite of the Jets’ defensive-minded head coach Rex Ryan. The veteran linebacker will be in unfamiliar territory during training camp because he will have to battle with the young players for a starting job. If the Pace ends up getting buried on the depth chart, his ability to mentor the younger guys is invaluable to a Jets’ team looking to return to relevance next season.