The Jets cut a pair of linebackers, David Bowens and Brad Kassell, on Thursday, clearing about $3 million from the 2009 cap and fueling speculation about their top priority in free agency. Both players played inside linebacker during their Jets careers, as did soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Eric Barton, and it just so happens that Ray Lewis and Bart Scott both play the same position.
They also played it on a Ravens defense coordinated by new coach Rex Ryan, which means you don't need a Phd in dot connection to see where the Jets are looking when free agency opens next Friday. There has been a lot of debate about how much cap room the Jets actually have at their disposal, but they seem to be in decent shape, decent enough to sign one of the linebackers anyway.
While both are fine players, neither move is without its drawbacks. Scott has always been a cog in an impressive defensive machine, and it is unknown how well he'd do as a star in a unit with less talent than the ones the Ravens put forth. Lewis is coming off an excellent 2008, but wasn't quite as good in 2007 and will be 34 when the 2009 season begins. That trajectory is a bit too close to the one of Brett Favre to be entirely comfortable, especially with his contract demands expected to be in the neighborhood of $8 million a season.
Choosing one or the other might come down to what Ryan sees when he looks at the Jets defense. If he sees a group with talent that he can shape into what he wants, Scott would be the wiser choice because he has age and economics on his side. If Ryan thinks that the team needs a leader, and based on the stretch run that's hard to argue with, Lewis may be the answer as he builds the rest of the unit.