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Jets release Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Eric Smith, Jason Smith; waive Josh Baker

Bart Scott follows the action during a game

Bart Scott follows the action during a game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. (Nov. 22, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty

The Jets' salary-cap purge began Tuesday when the team dumped linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, safety Eric Smith and offensive tackle Jason Smith -- and their hefty contracts.

The Jets also waived tight end / fullback Josh Baker, who spent the 2012 season on injured reserve.

The cuts weren't surprising, considering the Jets desperately needed to create cap room. According to USA Today, the team began the week $26.3 million over the projected $121-million cap. Tuesday's moves allowed them to clear close to $31 million, putting them under the cap by about $5 million.

"Every one of these players was a major contributor to our football team," coach Rex Ryan said in a statement. "They have the work ethic and attitude that you look for in players and they will always be New York Jets. It was an honor to coach each of these men. They are tremendous people, as well as outstanding football players."

The Jets initially announced the cuts of only Pace, Eric Smith, Jason Smith and Baker, leaving many to assume Scott, who was slated to earn $6.9 million in base salary in both 2013 and 2014, would remain on the roster, at least for another day.

But an hour after the initial cuts, the team announced it had released Scott, too.

His agent, Harold Lewis, was supposed to meet with the Jets during the NFL combine this week in Indianapolis, but confirmed in an email that the meeting is "off for now."

The Jets will save $7.2 million by cutting Scott, who would have counted $8.7 million against the cap.

The outside linebacker returned this offseason in better shape and determined to have a breakout 2012. But he suffered a turf toe injury in Week 3 and suffered subsequent ligament damage, which considerably slowed his production and required offseason surgery.

Scott, who began his career with the Ravens, came to Florham Park in 2009 to play for Ryan, his former defensive coordinator in Baltimore. But Scott was well aware his time with the Jets was running out.

"If you ask any of my teammates, 'Do we need Bart?' or 'Is Bart good for us?' I'm sure they'd say yes," he said in a phone interview with Newsday on Feb. 7. "But if you ask everybody in the organization, they may say: 'You know what? It may be time to move on.' "

The Jets could still negotiate with Scott. But the linebacker, who was signed to a six-year, $48-million deal, would have to take a significant pay cut to rejoin the team.

Pace also was an expected salary-cap casualty, given the $11.6 million he was to make next season. Looking to improve their pass rush, the Jets signed the outside linebacker to a six-year, $42-million contract in 2008. By releasing him, they'll save $8.6 million.

It was a foregone conclusion the Jets would part ways with Jason Smith, whom they acquired from the Rams for Wayne Hunter. Smith, who was to get an $11.25-million roster bonus in 2013, would have counted $12 million against the cap.

By releasing Eric Smith, a solid special teams player and backup, the Jets saved the $3 million the safety stood to make this season.

New York Sports