Opinion: If Revis Goes Rex Should Follow Suit

Daniel Marcus

With the rumors regarding the fate of all-world Cornerback Darrelle Revis swirling, it seems as more and more likely that his NFL future will be outside of the auspices of the New York-Metro area. Let me start by saying that I can understand where Woody Johnson is coming from with his desire to trade Revis in order to avoid another protracted, contentious contract negotiation or, even worse, losing him altogether without receiving anything in return. However, there are a number of things to consider given the moves the Jets have made thus far this off-season that make trading the best corner in football untenable:

Selling Low:

It is now being reported that the Jets were considering whether to shop Revis even before his devastating knee injury that sidelined him for most of the 2012 season. If he were healthy and had another Revis-esque season, then virtually any asking price would sound reasonable given the fact that Revis plays a premium position in a passing league and is a once-in-a-generation type talent. However, this is not the case, as he is coming back from a torn ACL, which will significantly devalue his stock when it comes to trading him.

Couple that with the fact that by virtue of the seemingly “un-pluggable” stream of leaks that continues to emanate from the organization, the Jets have already tipped their hand to the rest of the league and are in a very vulnerable position when it comes to leverage, as teams now know they are borderline desperate to move him. So now instead of fetching multiple number one picks for arguably the best defensive player in the league, according to several reports market value for Revis is considered to be somewhere around a one and a three. Not only is Revis’ face value diminished but the underlying value of those picks is not what it would’ve been had they traded him last year, given how weak this year’s draft is in terms of how it coincides with the Jets needs.

The value is simply not there and if you buy into the notion that John Idzik is not necessarily the world’s greatest talent evaluator then it is an even bigger roll of the dice. If history and the Patriots have shown us anything its that the amount of picks a team has means nothing if you can’t successfully evaluate talent. Think about it, the Jets could be without perhaps the greatest corner to ever play the position and wind up with Anthony Becht and Vernon Gholston or (insert Jets draft blunders of your choosing).

Which leads me to my second point…

Fan Base Uproar: 

If there’s one thing all Jets fans should realize by this point, it’s that Woody Johnson has a tendency to cave to fan sentiment and really just wants to be liked but he has curbed that in recent years, opting instead to do what (he thinks) will sell PSL’s and dominate the headlines. However, this strategy has only served to alienate and provoke an otherwise loyal and passionate fan base and as a season-ticket holder I have seen this first-hand. If the Jets were to trade away Revis, he would be just another in a long line of popular players in the prime of their careers that the Jets have chosen to sell low on. The other two most recent examples being Jonathan Vilma and Leon Washington. (You may also wish to include John Abraham if you feel it appropriate.)

Anyway, following one of the most frustrating and miserable seasons of Jets football in recent memory and the subsequent hiring of Idzik and his shot-gun wedding style pairing with Rex Ryan, fans are up in arms. I have personally spoken to many that seriously question the direction of this franchise, so much so that they are now distancing themselves from the team by any means available whether it is by not renewing their tickets or simply abandoning them altogether. If Woody wants to ensure that his team will once again be playing to Jaguar-esque crowds during a year that the stadium he is still paying off will be hosting a Super Bowl, then trading away Revis is the way to go.

By the same token, winning cures most if not all ills and if it turns out to be a move that helps the team in the end then these same fans will likely flock back in droves but on the surface it doesn’t appear as though that is a likely outcome, at least not in the short term.

Undercutting Rex:

Since the Jets decided to hire a new General Manager while retaining their incumbent head coach Rex Ryan, it has led many to speculate that Ryan is under a “win or else” edict, effectively making him a lame-duck coach. Everyone knows that Ryan is primarily a defensive coach whose system relies heavily on great back-end play and since the day he walked in the door, Ryan has asked Revis to do more than any other corner in the NFL. Revis responded to this by becoming the league’s premier shut-down corner.

Sure, Antonio Cromartie filled the void left by Revis leading many to believe that the team was “fine” without him but don’t be fooled. Again, Cromartie was nothing short of spectacular but teams did not throw as much on this Jets team, due to how vulnerable they were against the run. Couple that with the fact that they rarely played with a lead. The Jets are better with Revis, the pairing of him and Cromartie represent the league’s most formidable cornerbacking tandem that will allow Rex to field a competitive team, capable of sneaking into the playoffs in 2013. However, if you take away Revis from a defense that will have other significant holes to fill, it will almost certainly make Rex a lame-duck coach by taking away his greatest on-field asset when it comes to exploiting match-ups and winning games.

Consider the implications of having to play the Patriots twice a year without Revis and things begin to look bleak when you consider the flexibility he gives the Jets schematically when it comes to creating a game-plan. He has the ability to take the opposing team’s greatest receiving weapon out of the game and that cannot be over-emphasized. Just as the organization has under-cut Mark Sanchez by depriving him of the tools (personnel) to be successful, the same will be true for Rex if Revis is dealt and their fates will ultimately be the same.

Let’s not forget one other important thing; many have asserted that the fates of Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan will be inexorably linked but the same can also be said for Revis and Ryan. Ryan has to share some of the blame when it comes the Revis situation because he has had a pretty big hand in creating this monster, proclaiming on several occasions that he viewed Revis as “the best defensive player in the league.” I would tend to argue that Revis does not make such a precipitous climb to that status if it was not for Ryan and his system. Ryan’s system that put Revis out on his “Island” against the opposing team’s best receiver not only birthed a catchy a nickname but gave rise to the star of the player that the Jets traded up in the first round of the 2007 draft in order to acquire. Face it, Revis has won more games for Ryan than Sanchez ever has. In fact, his outstanding play has bailed Sanchez out many times over his career and as such it is he who is truly linked at the hip to Rex Ryan so much so that if the Jets trade him, it will likely mean the end of the Ryan era in New York.

If Revis gets traded it might be in Rex’s best interest to go ahead and take that TV job many suggested that he would because in what is likely a playoffs-or-bust season for his job, it would make sense just to leave without having to endure another tumultuous, sub-par season without his best player. The Idzik/Ryan marriage is an unorthodox and awkward arrangement as it is. If this trade is to happen it will bear watching what the Jets decide to do with those draft picks because how they draft will likely dictate what direction they are looking to go with the team as far as the head coach is concerned.

For example, it will be very interesting to see how they address the linebacker position, needing two new starters at Outside Linebacker. If the Jets trade Revis but spend high picks on to prototypical 3-4 outside backers who can rush the passer, it will bode well for Ryan.  Those picks would mean that they are drafting players that fit Rex’s system as opposed to perhaps a 4-3 set, much like Pete Carroll runs with the Seahawks. If the Jets draft players tailored for Ryan it will take away the notion that he is a “lame duck coach” and show the world at large that they are committed to a rebuilding process with him at the helm. If that’s the case, it would make sense that the Jets have been connected to troubled former LSU Cornerback and Heisman Trophy finalist, Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu is as talented as they come but has had his share of off-the-field issues. Hmmm…sounds like a Rex Ryan-type player to me.

The only reason I think that Rex may be amenable to trading Revis is that he believes in his ability to coach a defense that he will see it as a challenge, considering the way the secondary stepped up in his absence this past season. Perhaps the Jets will use the picks they receive in the hypothetical Revis deal to both address the corner position and invest in some real pass-rushers, which would mitigate the need to have two All-Pro Corners securing the back-end of the defense.

The Cap:

I don’t pretend to be any type of cap expert or guru, as that seems to be a popular term these days so I will defer to the real experts like Jason from NYJetsCap.com who put it more eloquently than I could. However, I will try my best to explain the situation as it pertains to the cap implications of the one they call “Revis Christ”. When it comes to the Jets trading away a Cornerback in order to save money there are two main schools of thought: 1) trade away the inferior Corner with the higher current trade value and the more favorable contract when it comes to maneuvering the cap or 2) deal the once-in-a-generation talent with a slightly diminished stock because of his mercenary-like attitude and a propensity for hold-outs.

If you look at the short-term it’s honestly a no-brainer, the Jets should trade Cromartie because his value is likely as high as it will ever be and by doing so they can create $8.25 million in cap space for the 2013 season, which they desperately need. On the other hand, if they trade Revis they will be trading away the better player for less-than-optimal value and taking a $3 million dead money cap hit for the 2013 season. Provided that Revis lives up to the terms of his current contract and does not hold out or miss any mandatory work-outs, the final three years of what was technically a seven-year deal will be voided, effectively making him a free agent. The Jets desperately want to avoid him leaving without getting anything in return and are reluctant to pay him the $16 million per year he will likely be seeking.

From a football stance, you keep the better player every time and that is obviously Revis but from a business perspective it will be unfeasible to devote so much money to one position. If Cromartie shows that he can consistently play the way he has played last season then he is a bargain for what the Jets are paying him and is also under contract through the 2014 season and his contract is structured as such that if his play falls off the table they can cut him after 2013 and save $9.5 million. So from a business perspective Cromartie, at least from the outset, appears to be the choice. However, as I mentioned consider that the Jets are determined to only keep one of these very talented players and as was also mentioned there is a cap savings of trading Cromartie but a hit if they trade Revis. Thus in the very short-term it makes sense to keep Revis and trade away Cromartie and by doing so freeing up some significant money in the process.

Theoretically, the Jets could take this time they are spending on exploring trading Revis and instead start negotiating an extension with him instead that would either reduce his cap number for this season or front-load some of the money like they did in his previous deal and lock him long-term. In essence the money that would have gone to Cromartie for 2013 will now go to front-loading Revis’ substantial contract, making him a happy camper and locking up the best defensive player in the league through his thirties. The question with Darrelle is: how much will he be seeking in total compensation? My guess is a lot and making that work along with the other big money, long-term contracts the Jets have already doled out could be difficult.

The bell-weather contract(s) for elite Cornerbacks is that of Nnamdi Asomougha who received two of the most lucrative contracts that a Corner has received in NFL history. The first was a result of Al Davis’ creeping senility, where he paid Asomougha an outrageous $45.3 million over three years of which he only saw $28.5 million after opting out of the final year in order to cash-in, in free agency. Asomugha traded in his $15 million per year average for a longer term deal with the Eagles worth $60 million over five years with $25 million guaranteed, a per-year average of $12 million. Over the course of the first three years of his current contract, Revis earned more than that $12 million per year mark and could be looking for something closer to that $15 million mark.

Let’s be honest here, when it comes to NFL contracts the only figure that really means anything is the guaranteed money as everything else might as well be written on toilet paper. There is a way to give Revis what he wants without breaking the bank or crippling in the team and here’s where I do the Jets job for them:

Considering he will be 28 going into this season the Jets should look to sign him up for a five-to-six-year deal worth around $13 million and change per year. The next question is how do they do that without hindering the team’s ability to rebuild and fill other crucial holes? Assuming the rebuilding process will account for the next two-to-three years it will make sense to keep his cap number down in those years and how do you do that? My answer would be by paying him around a $9-10 million guaranteed base over what will likely be the most productive years of his contract (1-3 and maybe even 4). By doing so, the Jets will ensure that he gets Nnamdi-esque guarantees without a prorated signing bonus that will have to be paid out over the duration of the contract.

The Eagles did a similar thing with the Nnamdi contract while making some of his pay performance based upon percentage of snaps played in a given year. Essentially the Jets would be back-loading Revis’ contract with higher per-year averages in years four and five with none of it being guaranteed considering the guaranteed money had already been paid out over the first three years. The Jets would theoretically be on the hook for $34 million over two years but have the option of renegotiating or cutting him without any cost with theoretically his best years being behind him at 31.

The way this contract would work, the Jets would be betting on Revis’ immediate production into the prime of his career and keeping his cap number in a reasonable neighborhood while they rebuild. Of course this is a bit of an over-simplification as it is contingent upon Revis and his team of Schwartz, Feinsod, and his Uncle Sean Gilbert to agree upon such a deal but it is a solution that would help them retain him without impeding their ability to rebuild and retool over the coming years. It just seems as though the Jets are unwilling to enter such negotiations with Revis’ team considering how the previous two went.

Right now the ball is in the court of John Idzik and Woody Johnson to decide but what to do with their talented Cornerback but before they do, they need to realize the implications either way and what life will be like without him. If you haven’t caught on by now, I am a proponent of keeping him as long as they can make it reasonable to accommodate his demands without putting the team in an even worse situation when it comes to the salary cap.

Let me know what you guys think the Jets should do with Revis in the comment section below.