Jets release LB Pace, S Eric Smith and OL Jason Smith to clear cap space

The New York Jets have released veteran linebacker Calvin Pace, safety Eric Smith, backup offensive lineman Jason Smith, and tight end Josh Baker, clearing significant salary cap space.

The moves Tuesday were expected because New York entered the offseason more than $20 million over the cap for the 2013 season. They were the first significant personnel decisions by new general manager John Idzik, who was hired to replace the fired Mike Tannenbaum last month.

Idzik will be plenty busy this offseason, with another key decision being the future of backup quarterback Tim Tebow, who is expected to be traded or released before free agency begins next month.

The Jets are also hamstrung by the contract of quarterback Mark Sanchez, who is coming off a miserable season but is guaranteed $8.25 million in 2013. He would cost the Jets a $17.1 million cap hit if they cut him.