Jets sign LB Pace, OL Woody

March 3, 2008 6:09:50 PM PST
The New York Jets signed linebacker Calvin Pace and offensive lineman Damien Woody on Monday, continuing the team's busy free-agency period.Pace, Arizona's first-round pick in 2003, signed a six-year, $42 million deal that included a $20 million signing bonus. The deal for Woody, also a former first-rounder of New England, is reportedly for five years, $25 million.

Pace, 27, underperformed for most of his five seasons with the Cardinals, but is coming off his best year. He had 98 tackles, 6.5 sacks and an interception after moving from defensive end to linebacker full-time.

"We think he can help in our defense," general manager Mike Tannenbaum said. "We saw him play in the 3-4 defense last year and we're excited to get him."

Woody, 30, started his career with New England in 1999 and spent the last four seasons with Detroit. He's a versatile lineman who has played center, guard and tackle in his career. With the Jets, Woody could replace veteran Anthony Clement as the starter at right tackle.

"I think his versatility was one of the hallmarks of what we were looking for," Tannenbaum said.

The Jets have been extremely active since the free-agency period began Friday. They acquired defensive tackle Kris Jenkins from Carolina for draft picks; traded linebacker Jonathan Vilma to New Orleans for a draft pick; signed Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca to a five-year deal.

"We just thought it was the right opportunity for us," Tannenbaum said. "With these four players in particular, we just felt like they were opportunities to improve us at positions we felt could be upgraded."

The Jets have also signed defensive tackle Sione Pouha to a three-year contract extension and fullback Stacy Tutt to an exclusive-rights contract.

Tannenbaum acknowledged that the Jets traded defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson to Cincinnati, but it fell through.

"We were close today, but he's a member of our organization," Tannenbaum said. "Our offseason program starts March 17 and, unless something happens between now and then, we expect him to be here."

Tannenbaum added that the Jets are by no means done with making moves.

"As someone suggested to me, I think we've bought the suit and we have to go out and buy a couple of neckties," he said with a chuckle. "I hope that over the next couple of days, there will be a few more things we're looking at."

Pace struggled to live up to his lofty draft status at defensive end during his first two seasons with the Cardinals, and had his third season cut short by injury. He played only five games in 2005 after he cut his right forearm while falling through a window at his home during a bye weekend.

Pace recovered to play in every game in 2006, some at strongside linebacker. After Arizona switched to primarily a 3-4 defense - the same system New York runs - Pace moved to linebacker and excelled last year.

"Calvin is an intelligent, young player who has been productive as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 alignment," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "He has been effective with his hand on and off the ground."

Woody started 76 games with New England, mostly at center, and helped the Patriots to two Super Bowls, although he didn't play against Carolina in 2004 because of a knee injury.

The Lions signed him to a $31 million, six-year contract with a $9 million signing bonus following that season. Woody and his agent, Ben Dogra, agreed to give up $2.5 million in salary this season - more than half of what he was due to make - in exchange for voiding the last two years of his deal.

"I'm ecstatic to be with the Jets," Woody said in a statement. "I am familiar with Eric Mangini and (quarterbacks coach) Brian Daboll and it feels good to be reunited with them. I am looking forward to returning to the AFC East and contributing to this team."

Woody started the first three games at right guard last season before being benched by the Lions. After three games on the inactive list, he slowly worked his way onto the field as a reserve, and then became the starter at right tackle.

"Damien is a versatile player that has experience at a number of positions," Mangini said. "I spent four seasons with Damien in New England and know that he is a diligent performer with a good work ethic."