Rams eat part of Smith's salary to complete trade.
Brian Costello @BrianCoz
League source says Smith deal was reworked and his Jets salary is $2.45 million, same as Hunter's
Jenny Vrentas @JennyVrentas
The way it works is Smith signed new contract w Rams before 4 p.m. with a $1.55M SB. Traded to Jets after 4 p.m
Vrentas: Tackle Jason Smith officially joins Jets
Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick in 2009, is now officially a Jet, and could play in live action as early as Thursday's preseason game against the Eagles.
The Jets and Rams struck a deal last night to exchange Smith and Wayne Hunter, each recently benched from their starting jobs. Both players had to pass a physical first, and Smith also signed a new contract with the Rams prior to the trade.
In simplest terms, Smith was due to make $4 million in base salary this year, while Hunter was due $2.45 million. The teams worked out an arrangement where the amount each pays out will not change, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement. That person requested anonymity because teams do not comment on players' contracts.
Smith signed a new contract with the Rams before the league day ended at 4 p.m. that included a $1.55 million signing bonus, the difference between his salary and Hunter's. After 4 p.m., he was traded to the Jets with a $2.45 million base salary.
The arrangement makes sense, because the Jets would not sign up to pay even more money for a back-up tackle. Smith's 2013 salary, a reported $12 million that voids if he plays in less than 31 percent of the snaps this season, does not change.
General manager Mike Tannenbaum confirmed that the team's plans are to keep Austin Howard as the starting right tackle, a role he took on when Hunter was benched last week. Smith will be a back-up left and right tackle, and also come in as the jumbo tight end.
Like coach Rex Ryan, though, Tannenbaum left the door slightly open at the position, saying, "We'll see how the season unfolds."
Tannenbaum said the Jets did not intend to trade Hunter when they said publicly last Thursday that he would not be moved. But he said the Rams called Friday and talks heated up from there.
He emphasized that both players could benefit from a fresh start. Smith is considered a bust in St. Louis.
"For us, it's more about what we think he can do," Tannenbaum said. "He has very good movement skills for somebody his size, he plays both sides, we like his range. Again, I think he has to learn from what happened in St. Louis, but with that said, come here with a fresh start."
Smith has played only 29 games since 2009, starting 26, as he has dealt with concussions and other injuries. Tannenbaum admitted "that was a concern," but considered the risk "reasonable."
Tannenbaum did not want to say that Hunter lost confidence or that there was no longer a way for him to thrive here. His last performance for the team was not a good one, as he surrendered 2.5 sacks and another nullified by penalty in the second preseason game against the Giants.
Did the Jets misjudge Hunter's talent when they signed him to a four-year extension as a starter last summer?
"When we signed Wayne, we felt like there was a lot of good football there," Tannenbaum said. "He played a lot of good football for us. Last year was mixed, it wasn’t all bad. There were some really good things in there.
We felt like he deserved another chance. We kept evaluating things, and gave him an opportunity to start against the Giants, and we measured that against Austin and other opportunities (around the league)."
Interestingly, the Jets now have three of the top 11 picks in the 2009 draft: Smith (2), Mark Sanchez (5) and Aaron Maybin (11).