Eric Smith: Stay or Go?

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17: Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos runs for the game winning touchdown against Eric Smith #33 of the New York Jets at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images)

The Jets decided Eric Smith was a full time player this year. Many felt this was a bad idea. There was a very good reason for this. The Jets tried Eric out as a full time player under Eric Mangini. It did not work well then. It was only when Rex Ryan showed up and put Smith into a situational role as a nickel linebacker that he flourished into a good player, the highlight being his masterful performance in the 2010 Wild Card Playoffs at Indianapolis.

2011 was an ugly year for Eric. Teams picked at him almost at will in the passing game. Only Antrel Rolle allowed more yardage in coverage from the safety position. Smith is just not athletic enough to handle good receiving tight ends. Even more frustrating is that he was not really that good even in areas where he has a good reputation. He led the team in tackles, but he really was not that great against the run. Jim Leonhard's tackle total went down as Eric filled that role. The Jets run defense was not as good as in 2010. Smith was not the biggest reason, but he was a downgrade from Leonhard. The difference was subtle but real. Leonhard reads plays and takes good angles to ball carriers to minimize gains. Smith takes bad angles and allows runners to grind out extra yardage, turning 2 yard gains into 5 yard gains.

Smith was burned time and again on critical plays in losses. Some people tried to defend him by saying people only point out the mistakes he makes. He cannot afford to make mistakes, though. His position is the last line of defense. When he messes up, the result is catastrophic.

Smith is a great player in a small role at minimum wage. He is a really bad value for a couple of million dollars as an every down player. Eric is a good nickel linebacker and a good special teamer, but the Jets could use some cap space. Smith is a luxury. There is no way he should return at his current price. He could create an extra $2 million if the Jets cut him.

I vote go. How do you vote?

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