The New York Jets began preparing for the upcoming free agent period, releasing linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, as well as safety Eric Smith and offensive tackle Jason Smith on Tuesday.
According to the New York Post, the moves will clear about $31 million in salary cap space. The Jets were reportedly $23 million over the cap.
"Every one of these players was a major contributor to our football team," said Jets coach Rex Ryan in a statement Tuesday. "I was very impressed with Jason this past season while Bart, Calvin and Eric have been an instrumental part of our defense for the past four years. It was an honor to coach each of these men. They are tremendous people as well as outstanding football players."
Scott was the first big free agent signing in the Ryan era, joining the Jets in 2009 and helping the franchise to a pair of AFC title games in his first two seasons.
In four years as a Jet, Scott registered 342 tackles with 8 1/2 sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He had 60 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and an interception in 15 games last year.
The Southern Illinois product spent his first seven NFL seasons in Baltimore, where Ryan was defensive coordinator. He has 732 tackles, 25 sacks and four picks in his 11-year career.
Pace spent the past five seasons with the Jets after signing as a free agent from Arizona, and last season posted 55 tackles with three sacks in 16 games. He had 28 sacks during his time with New York.
The 32-year-old Wake Forest product played his first five seasons with the Cardinals. He has 495 tackles and 42 sacks with 17 forced fumbles and three interceptions during his career.
Eric Smith appeared in 96 games and started 36 over seven seasons with the Jets, who selected him in the third round of the 2006 draft. He has six career interceptions, including one in 12 games last year.
Jason Smith played 16 games in a reserve role with the Jets last year after spending his first three seasons with St. Louis. He was selected by the Rams with the second overall pick of the 2009 draft and started 26 games with St. Louis.
The Jets also waived tight end Josh Baker.