Potential New York Jets Free Agent: Nick Barnett


Dec. 30, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Nick Barnett (50) against the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of changes are coming to Florham Park, as we all know. A position that will have some of the most changes will be the linebacker position, and with good reason. Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, and company looked liked dinosaurs. When they were in space needing to make a play, they couldn’t catch a cold, much less an offensive player. How does that lyric go? “Change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”

Yesterday, the Buffalo Bills made a big splash, releasing linebacker Nick Barnett. He has been a big part of defenses for many years. After 10 years in the league, Barnett still makes an impact, recording over 100 tackles last season with the Buffalo. The question of the morning is, should the Jets take a look at Nick Barnett? Let’s take a closer look.

There are a lot of positives to the resume of Nick Barnett. In a ten year career, Nick started at least 15 games in eight of those years. In each of those seasons, he recorded over 100 tackles. Over those eight seasons with the Packers and the Bills, he averaged 119.5 total tackles per season. THAT, my friends, is the model of consistency.

Let’s look at some of his grades, courtesy of PFF. His overall grade of 6.0 in 1025 snaps is significantly higher than any of the Jets outside linebackers, the closest being is 0.3 for Bryan Thomas. Calvin Pace recorded a -17.4 in 1026 snaps. In pass coverage, he was better than any Jets outside linebacker as well, with a 1.9 rating. Garrett McIntyre was the closest with a -1.1 grade, and Calvin Pace’s grade was a -4.4.

All these numbers obviously would be an improvement over what the Jets have. He graded out with a -4.0 in the running game, which actually is lower than Calvin Pace’s grade against the run, which was a 0.7. But, it ranked right along with the rest of this group of linebackers. There are a lot of good reasons to bring this player to the New York Jets.

But there are good reasons NOT to bring this player to the Jets as well, which we will talk about on the next page.

Dec. 9, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Nick Barnett (50) watches the play during a game against the St. Louis Rams at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, the fact that he has been in the league for 10 years is a factor. 10 years, 1,029 tackles, and 31 years of age means that Nick Barnett has a lot of mileage on him. On a team that was most vulnerable at the linebacker position, this must be taken into consideration.

We have talked about his eight healthy seasons, but what about the other two? In those seasons, he had some pretty rough injuries. In 2008, for example, Barnett was limited to 9 games after tearing a ligament in his knee. In 2010, Nick’s season ended during his fourth game of the year thanks to a wrist injury suffered against the Lions. So it’s been a good career as far as health, but not perfect.

What is a big need for the New York Jets? We have talked about it many times….the pass rush. The Jets need to get to the quarterback far more often than they do. Can Nick Barnett help us with that? Well, let’s see. PFF has a unique stat called “Pass Rushing Productivity”or PRP, which looks at QB sacks, hits, and hurries based upon how often the player rushes the passer, and gives them a rating.

Calvin Pace, for example, recorded a 7.5 rating in PRP, leading the Jets’ outside linebackers. Barnett actually recorded a rating lower than Pace’s with a 7.2. If he can’t put up a rating higher than Calvin “T-Rex” Pace, is he really going to help us in the pass rush? Not much.

Where else have the Jets linebackers been vulnerable? Defending in pass coverage. Was anyone really able to watch those guys in pass coverage, without either hiding, or laughing? I certainly know that I couldn’t. Admittedly, Nick Barnett had a higher ranking in pass coverage than the Jets outside linebackers with a 1.9. But, there is a catch.

That catch? Take a look at his number from 2011 and you will see what I mean. In 2011, Barnett put up a rating of 7.9, and he went DOWN to his 1.9 in 2012. What could that tell us? Well, it could tell us that he had an off year in that category, however PFF doesn’t go far back enough to really give us a trend. But, if you add the drop off from 2011-2012, and combine that with his age, you can reasonably conclude that he has gotten slower. And THAT, we don’t need.

So to me? With all of his good attributes, there are enough reasons to pass on Barnett. Look to the younger players, instead of another stop gap player at this position.