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Jets trade Hunter to Rams for Jason Smith

Wayne Hunter sits on the bench during the

Wayne Hunter sits on the bench during the second half of a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. (Aug. 21, 2010) Credit: AP

Four days after losing his starting job, Wayne Hunter has lost his spot on the Jets roster altogether.

The beleaguered right tackle-turned-jumbo tight end has been dealt to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for former first-round pick Jason Smith.

The trade was first announced by ESPN New York Monday night and Hunter's agent confirmed the deal was done.

According to the Jets, both players will take their physicals Tuesday.

It was the final ego blow for Hunter, who was embarrassed by Jason Pierre-Paul in the Jets’ second preseason game and subsequently benched in favor of backup Austin Howard on Thursday. In announcing Hunter’s demotion, Rex Ryan raved about the offensive lineman’s prowess as a blocking tight end in jumbo packages.

And although Hunter wasn’t surprised at being benched, he admitted last week that “it's a blow to the pride because you know you're a better player than that.”

A Jets spokesman told reporters last week that the team would not trade Hunter, or his $2.45 million guaranteed contract, this season. According to a source, the team hadn't considered trading Hunter until the Rams reached out to them. And both teams felt the players would benefit from a change of scenery. 

Smith is due a guaranteed $4 million this season -- $1.55 million more than Hunter. In 2009, Smith signed a six-year contract, with maxium value of $61 million. But in April, he agreed to slash his salary from $10 million to $4 million (guaranteed).

But it remains to be seen whether the Jets will ever envision Smith – the second overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft – as their right tackle of the future. For now, that doesn't appear to be the case. The Jets plan to keep Howard as their starting right tackle and use Smith in Hunter's role (i.e., swing tackle/blocking tight end).

Like Hunter, Smith, 26, also lost his starting job recently. Barry Richardson replaced him as the Rams starting right tackle prior to the season opener and Smith played with the second-team in the team’s three exhibition games.

Despite comments to the contrary, the Jets never were happy with Hunter at right tackle. This past offseason they acquired and released three right tackles: Ray Willis, Stephon Heyer and Jeff Otah, whose contract was voided after a failed physical.

Howard appeared to have the starting job locked up – at least for the time being – after an impressive showing Sunday night in his first game as the starting right tackle. Unlike Hunter, who allowed 2.5 sacks (and another that was nullified) against the Giants on Aug. 18, Howard registered zero sacks against the Panthers, despite several one-on-one matchups. 

Hunter now joins former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer in St. Louis, along with former Jets teammates Kellen Clemens, Vernon Gholston, Matthew Mulligan, Rob Turner and Michael Campbell.

New York Sports