It took seemingly every minute of a long day to complete one of the biggest unrestricted free agency blitzes in franchise history. But after nightfall today, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan announced that linebacker Bart Scott will be wearing green and white for years to come.
Scott, who was at the Atlantic Health Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., for most of the day, finally signed on the dotted line and officially joins Ryan, his defensive coordinator for the past four seasons in Baltimore, as the new cornerstone of Ryan's and coordinator Mike Pettine's attack defense. Terms of the deal were not released by the team.
"We added 'the Madbacker' today," Ryan said on a conference call that began shortly after 9 p.m., referring to Scott's nickname and his screen name on his personal Website. "What you've seen him do and accomplish at Baltimore is just the tip of the iceberg for this young man. I think he's going to be even more effective now with the Jets defense."
"It is an honor to come here and start a new chapter of my career with the New York Jets," the 6'2", 240-pound Scott said in a statement released by the team. "What made the decision easier for me are the people in the organization and my familiarity with the coaching staff. These guys really pursued me hard. They picked me up from my house early in the morning and really let me know they care, they are serious and they are committed to winning.
"The opportunity to play under Coach Ryan again was huge. I've made it no secret how big a role he has played in me taking the steps from being an undrafted rookie free agent to where I am today. I wanted to keep that chemistry going. It's been so successful that I didn't want to lose that magic."
The newest Jet will be formally introduced at a Monday midday news conference at the training facility.
Tannenbaum on the conference call said there were more developments today besides the signing of Scott. He confirmed that Baltimore cornerback Corey Ivy was in for a visit today, Ravens safety Jim Leonhard will visit Saturday, and two Jets vets, guard Brandon Moore and fullback Tony Richardson, are close to re-signing with the team after briefly hitting free agency.
As for rumors of trade talks with Philadelphia for CB Lito Sheppard, Mike T said, "That's not something I can address right now. But I'd love to tell you more about Bart Scott."
Scott, who will turn 29 in August during training camp, was acknowledged to be one of the prizes of the first 24 hours of free agency after four years of starting and producing alongside fellow Ravens linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs in Ryan's yearly NFL-top-five defense.
Surrounded by that kind of talent, big production is hard to come by, but Scott was a tackling machine with four consecutive 100-tackle seasons the last four years. He also had a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2006 (although only 2.5 sacks combined in 2007-08) and in his last three seasons broke up 19 passes and had two interceptions. He reached the Pro Bowl after the '06 season.
Run-stopping, pass-rushing and coverage: the holy trinity in a great linebacker's skill set and Scott has them all. He's also shown excellent durability, having started in 62 consecutive regular-season and playoff games since first moving into Ryan's starting lineup seven games into the 2005 season.
Besides his skills and range, Scott displays an outstanding knowledge of the defensive system and plays his game with a superb intensity — two qualities that Ryan and Pettine will value as they teach all the new and holdover Jets the intricacies of their scheme.
Asked why "Madbacker," Ryan explained:
"Because basically he hates the guys in the other-colored jerseys. Off the field he's a personable young man. There are so many good things about him off the field. But when he's on the field playing against somebody, he plays the game the way it's supposed to be played and that's a violent and physical game."
Scott's road to the Jets is not your usual football success story. He grew up in Detroit (as did, coincidentally, Vernon Gholston) and played so well that his school, Southeastern High, retired his No. 32 jersey just last May.
But rather than starring at a collegiate football factory, Scott was a three-year starter at Southern Illinois. And rather than entering the NFL as a high-round and highly paid draftee, he was an unsigned free agent when he came to the Ravens after the 2002 draft.
Scott has built up an impressive off-the-field profile as a Raven. He is a family man — he and his wife, Darnesha have two children. He is a major participant in community affairs, whether it be contributing to a Habitat for Humanity project, hosting holiday parties for underprivileged children, or helping teammates at football camps. He returned to SIU to earn his economics degree in May 2005.
Here are some of Scott's key statistics from his past four seasons when he became a full-time starter with the Ravens: