Few players were under more scrutiny and caught the ire of a fan base like New York Jets safety Eric Smith.
Smith, who started in the absence of injured safety Jim Leonhard, was victimized by opposing quarterbacks down the stretch of the 2011 season.
Possessing far from world class speed, the bulky defensive back is stout against the running game, but struggles mightily in pass coverage. While effective at the line of scrimmage, Smith did little to shore-up New York’s defensive backfield as Gang Green lost their final-three games of the regular season with Smith in the starting role. In light of the Jets drafting safety Josh Bush of Wake Forest in the fifth-round and safety Antonio Allen out of South Carolina in the seventh-round, Smith’s days as a Jet could be numbered.
Let’s not forget the addition of free agent safety LaRon Landry who is all but guaranteed the starting strong safety job.
The Green-and-White are mulling other free agent options at safety, including re-signing an injury prone Leonhard to a one-year contract.
This begs the question, where does Smith fit in?
The short answer to that question –he doesn’t.
The Jets defensive motto this offseason is ‘one step faster.’ As Gang Green looks for ways to increase its team speed it doesn’t appear that the lumbering Smith would factor into those plans. While New York has not publicly indicated any intention of cutting ties with Smith, all signs pointing towards the end of the line for the Jets besieged safety.
On July 30, 2011, Smith was re-signed to a three-year deal keeping him under contract through the 2013 season. The former Michigan State Spartan will earn a base salary of $1.2M with a roster bonus of $1.8M in 2012 and a base salary of $2.4M along with a roster bonus of $600,000 in 2013.
While Smith has minimal value as a trade asset, the Jets could potentially release him saving approximately $2.05M in salary cap space in 2012 alone. General manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan are determined to retool their squad and unfortunately for Smith he looks to be the odd one out at the safety position in New York.
Rick Laughland covers the New York Jets for Greenandwhitereport.com
You can follow him on Twitter @rlaughland
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