Thoughts on the Trade for Jason Smith
I don’t have any clue what the Jets are doing right now. I’m not sure if they do either. It’s been an offseason of no planning and seeming change after change after change. I defended the Jets decision to keep Wayne Hunter back in February for cap purposes, the fact that there were no improvements on the market, and for general team morale. In hindsight I never should have defended it. They just had no plan so they hedged their bets and kept him. You have to ask yourself what did he do so bad in that Giants game that he did not do in 2010 or 2011 in games that mattered? The answer is nothing.
Yes Wayne Hunter stunk that Saturday night against anyone dressed in blue, but should that have been news to the Jets? Hunter was one of the worst 10 tackles in the NFL the last two years yet the team saw fit to guarantee him two years of salary. It is pretty clear that internally the Jets scapegoated former offensive line coach Bill Callahan for last season’s mess. Callahan wasn’t retained and rumors flew that the team was unhappy with his performance. Read between the lines and all the reasons I outlined for keeping Hunter had nothing to do with keeping him. The Jets felt he needed to be “coached up” and their new offensive regime was going to do it. Preseason rolls around and what happens? You got the same player that was here last year letting rusher after rusher to get to the QB. .
This brings me back to a point I have harped on about this team. They get too hung up in occasional performances and let it cloud their judgement, specifically on offense. When Rex Ryan discussed the teams trade for Santonio Holmes he focused on how he tore him up in the playoffs. Tim Tebow had the miracle against the Jets and then the Steelers. Wayne Hunter had a miracle against Chicago in 2010. Not everyone can be fixed by Rex Ryan. .
Hunter needed to go but why bring on $4 million in salary for a player who is considered almost as epic a bust as Vernon Gholston and Robert Gallery? The Jets cost themselves $1.5 million in precious cap room by making this move when they could have simply saved themselves $2.5 million by cutting Hunter back in February or by negotiating his salary down to the minimum as suggested. Instead they thought he was fixable so they were stuck with a player who the Jets felt they had to baby into a made up “important role” of jumbo TE. Yes its kindergarten in Florham Park where every player needs to get a pat on the back and an “important” designation to not feel singled out as a bad player. .
So what about Jason Smith then? Smith was drafted number 2 overall and fell out of favor with two Rams coaching staffs. He’s battled injuries and has a reputation for not exactly being willing to learn anything. He was drafted to play left tackle but that never happened. In 3 years he has played in 29 games and only started 26 of them, all at right tackle. The team hoped the new coaching staff could work wonders for him, but alas he couldn’t beat out Barry Richardson, who was the Chiefs version of Wayne Hunter last season, for a job. Apparently the Rams didn’t need a $4 million dollar “jumbo tight end” so they called the Jets, who I guess feel they can fix him. .
The Jets claim they will play Smith as a “jumbo TE”, but you know that isn’t their real plan for the year. I’m sure Mike Tannenbaum will be out tomorrow talking about how they owed it to Wayne to give him a fresh start away from all the distraction here and how this was such a good fit for both sides and how they love Smith’s upside. I’m sure they will mention Aaron Maybin and the turnaround that he had on the Jets after busting with the Bills, which doesn’t mean a thing. Im sure the Jets have every intention of Smith becoming their right tackle at some point this season. .
In looking over the stats he is surprisingly consistent in pass blocking. The stat that I have been using to evaluate lineman in pass protection, which calculates the number of pass failures attributed to their failure to block, graded Smith around number 40 in the league at 5.42% failures. That’s much better than Hunter’s 7.23% failures. What is even more impressive, though, is that his numbers are consistent. In 2009 he was at 5.19% and in 2010 at 5.04%. There is basically no variance. This isn’t D’Brickashaw Ferguson who one year will grade out as one of the best in the NFL and then the next rank 32nd. Smith is what he is. Upside? No, but at least you know what you are getting- someone who may be capable. .
So with that in place why did the Rams give up on him? Attitude seemed to play a major role. He was one of the most penalized tackles in the NFL last season, with a penalty on 1.2% of snaps played, ranking 67th out of 76 NFL tackles. Wayne Hunter was at 1%. For Smith that was regression from 2010 and I think the Rams felt it was just lack of effort to improve and absorb what they were trying to teach him. Hes considered a terrible run blocker, which is not a good trait for a tackle/jumbo TE. Many scouts anticipated that would be the case based on the offense they ran where he attended college. .
With the Jets in somewhat of a transition I can understand taking a flier on a player like Smith, but at the current cap charges they would have been better off just eating Hunters guarantee and sticking with a young guy making the minimum to fill out the roster. This move is probably going to put the Jets right up against the cap once the season begins. They will probably be around 3.5 million when the season begins and that will not even include the practice squad. They may still have an option of borrowing $1.5 million, though I have not heard reports of any teams using that and I wonder if that ended up being part of the concessions the union made towards increasing this years cap for all teams. Hopefully the guy pans out and the Jets get their starting tackle but Id say the odds are against it and its just going to cost the Jets money that could be spent next season.But whats most troublesome is the seat of your pants moves that seem to be going on right now. Im not sure my team has a direction anymore and thats hard to take.