But "old CP" has come to realize over his first six Jets seasons that the Northeast is where his home and his heart is, declaring in December that he wanted to finish his NFL career with us.
And the official signing of his next contract that occurred late Tuesday takes him one more step closer to that still long-range goal.
"This means a lot," Pace told me this afternoon about re-upping with the Jets. "Obviously this is a situation where I'm wanted. In my career, it means a lot to be wanted. The league is moving to a youth movement and a lot of older guys still have some miles left, yet they kind of get left out in the cold. I'm appreciated, and I owe a lot to the Jets organization for bringing me in and treating me great from day one till now."
Specifically, Pace thanks the spring in his step that led to a career-high 10 sacks last season to head coach Rex Ryan's belief in No. 97.
"I'm very, very fortunate to play for a guy in Rex who believes in me, who stands behind me," Pace said. "A lot of people might say, 'This guy can't do this, he can't do that.' Rex is like, 'You can do this.' He keeps giving me the opportunity, and I'm very grateful for that."
Why wouldn't Ryan and DC Dennis Thurman want to keep putting him out there? Calvin Pace arrived in 2008 as an unrestricted free agent from the Cards and Rex inherited him in '09. Over Pace's six seasons, including last year's double digits, he has 38 sacks — the most by any Jets linebacker in a six-year span since sacks become an official NFL statistic in 1982.
He also had a pair of strip-sacks last year, separating the Patriots' Tom Brady and the Saints' Drew Brees from the ball, which gave him a franchise-best 16 career forced fumbles.
Pace is eager to begin his 12th pro season and his seventh with us — he'll again be the most senior Jet on the roster — because, one, he sees the Jets as having a commitment to winning, and two, he likes who's lining up in front of and alongside him on the defense.
"I'm playing with an awesome group of guys, probably one of the better core group of defensive guys in the NFL," he said. "And even when things were bleak and looking down for us last year, everybody was still positive. Eight-and-eight wasn't an awesome year, but it could've been a lot worse. The biggest thing was that everyone stayed positive in the whole building. That's just the epitome for me, playing in New York and wearing that green and white. Everybody is committed to trying to win."
Calvin Pace will turn 34 in October. He knows ti-i-i-ime's not on his side. But he's ready to rock and roll for as long as Rex and the Jets need him. And he's taking a 56-game regular-season starting streak with him into the 2014 season with his young and feisty defensive mates.
"We all have roles to play. Some guys' roles are bigger than others," he said. "I just try to talk to 'em. I think that your duty as a quote-unquote veteran is to try to give back to these guys and tell 'em certain things to help them in their journeys.
"It's no different than a parent telling you certain stuff when you're a kid and you say, 'Yeah, whatever,' then later you think back on it and you remember what they told you. Hopefully these guys will take something away from old CP."
Here is a list of the top-sacking Jets LBs since 1982. Only the best six-season sack total is shown for each 'backer:
|JETS LBs WITH THE BEST SIX-PACKS|