The release of cornerback David Barrett last week was the beginning of the annual releasing-of-the-veterans. Today the Jets announced that they released Chris Baker, which comes on the heels of them cutting defensive end/linebacker David Bowens, linebacker Brad Kassell yesterday.
Bowens was signed from the Miami Dolphins before the 2007 season and provided a steady veteran input and a nice light-heartedness in the locker room. While offering a good level of production - he contributed nicely in David Harris's absence this season - however at 31, his age was becoming a factor.
Brad Kassell also came to the Jets prior to the 2007 after spending four years with the Tennesse Titans. He made his biggest contributions on special teams and then suffered a knee injury that put him out for the 2008 season.
As for Chris Baker, he is basically a cap casualty as the team would have owed him a reported $9 million or so over the next three years had they not released him. Baker has been a mainstay for the Jets since they drafted him out of Michigan State in 2002. He has always been productive not just as a pass catcher but as a better-than-average blocker, which made him a valuable commodity for the team during some of their recent years when they had a weak line. He was hugely helpful in shoring up the left side of the offensive line in the early days when D'Brickashaw Ferguson was still finding his way.
On a personal note, I have always liked all three of these guys. In addition to being solid players, they are fun to to talk to, generally accessible and popular with their teammates.
The loss of Baker leaves the Jets a little thin at tight end, so there could be a possibility that they would sign him to a new contract once free agency starts. Dustin Keller showed himself to be a fantastic pass catcher who improved throughout the season, but his blocking remains a notable weakness. Given the trend toward two (and sometimes three) tight end sets, the Jets more than likely need someone else who can provide that balance. So, there's no reason for them not to consider bringing Baker back.
As for the pending free agent acquisitions, the rumblings regarding the Jets acquiring Bart Scott may become a reality. From what I'm hearing, the feeling inside the Jets organization is that while Ray Lewis is still a great player, at age 33 and with 13 years of pounding behind him, his best days are in the rear view mirror. They'd have to pay a huge amount of money to acquire someone who would be more about locker room motivation and mentoring rookies.
The next few weeks should see some interesting activity.